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Karim Zeroual stars in Madagascar the Musical at Wales Millennium Centre

Popular TV Presenter, theatre performer and Strictly Finalist Karim Zeroual leads the cast of the brand-new UK tour of smash-hit family favourite Madagascar the Musical as the hilarious King Julien.


(Madagascar the Musical/Wales Millennium Centre)

Best known for anchoring CBBC and reaching the final of Strictly Come Dancing in 2019. We spoke to Karim in rehearsals about taking on the role of everyone’s favourite eccentric Lemur!


How are rehearsals going?


It’s going really well, I’m having so much fun. I think the best thing is I’m working with such a talented cast. It’s been a long time since I’ve done musical theatre, really since I was a kid. I’ve done panto and a few dance tours but not the full shebang! I’m loving being back onstage acting, singing and dancing with some incredible human beings. They are definitely keeping me on my toes and I’m loving every second.


I love the process of rehearsals too. We are all watching each other performances and really enjoying them – the cast is so supportive and it's great to be in a room with so much creativity. It’s a real privilege.


How do you feel about taking on the iconic role of King Julien?


I’m hugely excited and it feels like a real honour. I’ve not seen the stage show before, although I know and love the films, so it’s quite nice to bring my own twist to the role. I have been homing in on what King Julien might actually be like as a human – which may sound a bit ‘method’ but I’m trying to get some insight into what he is like and why, and how he has pulled together this ‘crew’ where whatever he says goes! There is a sense of responsibility in bringing to life a character that everyone knows so well and loves which is a little bit scary too but I think I’m doing a good job so far!


King Julien is such fun to play. There’s a lot of room for playing with the character and improvisation which is great. I also get to perform arguably the most iconic song from the show with Move it Move it. It’s a real laugh, it kind of feels like a mini rave on stage! I feel very privileged to have this part and to be honest, I think it’s really well suited to me…


Are you telling us there is a little bit of King Julien in you?


I’m not sure I want to say but I think there actually is you know! I’m quite small and look like a lemur…(haha, kidding) I can be a little flamboyant and a bit cheeky and naughty and he thinks he is right all the times, so I think some traits yes, maybe just a hint…!


I also play Zeke at the start of the show. He is like a zookeeper who introduces all the animals. That feels a bit like a home from home for me to, as it’s something I have done all my career as a presenter which is really nice. Playing a human role, I’m able to show a little bit more of ‘me’ – although in character. It’s great to play these two separate parts, one which is more like me and the other where I’m really in character and hardly recognisable.


Yes as King Julien we would hardly know it’s you! Are you looking forward to getting your lemur on?


That will be the cherry on the top. The costumes in this show are just amazing. As we speak, I’ve not been in full costume, but I can’t wait to get it on as that’s when the character will really come to life for me. I go all out in the rehearsal room and give it everything I can, but once the makeup and the costume is on that’s when King Julien will really come to life for me.


(Madagascar the Musical/Wales Millennium Centre)

Without giving too much away you are having to test your dancing skills again – this time on your knees?


Haha Yes, I have been rehearsing on my knees. I have kneepads and I’m sure by the end of the tour I will build a bit of resilience and have the toughest knees in the world of musical theatre!


When King Julien appears it’s a real ‘moment’ that marks a gear change in the show as the Zoosters find themselves thrown into this crazy new world of Madagascar having been used to the creature comforts of the Zoo and are surrounded by these non-conforming animals who are just wild! It’s hilarious as all the other cast towers over me and he is just this mad delusional lemur thinking and behaving as if he is king of the universe even though he’s only about 3 feet tall…


Do you think he is your favourite character in the show?


He is amazing and I have some great lines and fun scenes but honestly, all of the characters in the show are brilliant. They are all so individual and all bring something totally different to the stage, much as the characters in the film. Each character has something really special about them no one really outshines anyone else. I have to say though the Penguins are hilarious… they really are.


What are you looking forward to most about touring?


I’m most excited to be on the stage performing live and hopefully really getting the audience going! There is no feeling like performing on stage. I love TV and have done it for a long time and it’s one of many passions, but there is no feeling like being on stage and having that immediate reaction from an audience.


To be able to take this incredible show up and down the country and internationally is awesome. We get to visit some fantastic places and the lovely thing about touring is that each audience in each city is like a new show for us. You get a whole new buzz.


Speaking of audiences who do you think will enjoy Madagascar?


This is a show for everyone – it is a family show but I think there is something for everyone. There are some cheeky parts and King Julien definitely has some of those moments. Also, everyone knows and loves the film, every generation still knows it, and it’s always popping up on the TV and streaming services! So, to see some of these iconic characters played out in real life is just fantastic. The concept and characters never seem to get old.


So aside from getting to Move it Move it with King Julien why do you think people should come and see the show?


Genuinely this show has everything; superb singing, dancing, and acting, alongside the most beautiful costumes and amazing puppetry work, it’s colourful, it’s bright and it’s funny and the talent on the stage is incredible. If you want a good night out and to have a really good laugh and leave the theatre with a smile on your face this is for you. It’s a show for all the family whether you come with your Grandma, Great Grandma, Kids, Nieces, Nephews or a group of friends, I guarantee you will have a great night.


(Madagascar the Musical/Wales Millennium Centre)

You can join Karim and his Zooster Friends Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe, Gloria the hip hip Hippo and those hilarious, plotting penguins as they bound onto stage in the musical adventure of a lifetime.


Filled with outlandish characters, adventure galore and an upbeat score, you’ll have no choice but to “Move It, Move It!”


Join all of your favourite crack-a-lackin’ friends in Cardiff from 27 – 30 June 2024. Tickets are available now at wmc.org.uk

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