The Enormous Crocodile – Review – Leeds Playhouse
By Christine Goode, December 2023
Roald Dahl’s extensive repertoire of books has been adapted for many films and musicals, but The Enormous Crocodile is a lesser-known gem. This week, the new family musical has been premiered and promises fun, adventure and audience participation. Leeds Playhouse is the lucky venue, before it moves on to the Regents Park London Open Air Theatre in May.
The new musical adaptation offers lively tunes by Ahmed Abdullahi Gallab, lyrics by Suhayla El-Bushra with additional music and lyrics by Tom Brady. Directed and developed by Emily Lim, featuring mischievous puppets by co-director and puppetry designer Toby Olié, and a team of ten puppet-makers who worked tirelessly on them for over three months, making each one unforgettable. The impressive set and costume design by Fly Davis, is a spectacular to rival any west end show. The story follows the eponymous crocodile on his quest for a tasty meal of juicy children. The rest of the jungle’s inhabitants must unite to thwart his cunning tricks, but it will take immense courage to stop this voracious brute.
As we settle into our seats, we are immediately transported to a lush jungle landscape with monster leaves adorning the proscenium arch. The bright green lights and haze create an immersive atmosphere, as if we are stepping straight into the jungle. Smoke-filled bubbles fall gently from the sky, adding to the magical ambiance of the theatre.
The cast, dressed in fabulous jungle-themed costumes, mingle with the audience before the show begins. Armed with dragonflies, they fly the little creatures in front of the delighted young patrons. Once the performance starts, the children are captivated, and the show keeps their attention throughout the full fifty-five minutes – there’s no interval.
The ingenious use of costumes and props is a sight to behold, with so many puppets and costume changes. The music is catchy and relatable for young viewers and adults alike and a small cast of five keep us entertained throughout. These seasoned West End stage stars, showcasing their training with superb vocals and acting skills, entertain us with a variety of accents as they change their characters multiple times. The young audience are delighted as the characters occasionally talk to them and ask for their help. Even though audience participation is part of the show it does not have the feel of pantomime, or indeed some other children’s shows we probably have all ‘endured’ at times. This is fresh and exciting – and a feast for young eyes.
Elliotte Williams-N’Dure, who plays the enormous crocodile, is fantastic, embodying the creature with ferocity and superb vocals. Humpy Rumpy the Hippopotamus, played by Lawrence Hodgson-Mullings is hilarious, children and adults alike are laughing hysterically at his accidental farty outbursts. Philippa Hogg as the Roly Poly Bird, and Robyn Sinclair as Muggle Wump the Monkey, along with Charis Alexandra as Trunky the Elephant, are all hilarious and entertaining.
Unaware of the book by Roald Dahl, I did not know the story, but in true Dahl style it is totally bonkers and great, great fun. People are leaving the playhouse with big smiles on their faces, (myself included, amazed at the spectacle I have just seen). I hear a few singing the songs and saying out loud quotes from the show.
The Enormous Crocodile musical is enormous fun for the whole family, and a must-see this Christmas. I will be revisiting the jungle again, before all the tickets get snapped up!
‘The Enormous Crocodile The Musical’ is at Leeds Playhouse until 6 Jan 2024
images: Manuel Harlan