Lions and penguins and hippos, oh my! Youth Education On Stage is bringing the animated film Madagascar to the stage July 17 to 19.

Y.E.S. is in it's 34th season, and is co-directed by Jack Dyville and B. Michael Quale, who have spearheaded Y.E.S. since its inception. Dyville said Madagascar is one of their more ambitious productions, boasting a cast of nearly 50, complete with elaborate musical numbers and choreography. The show has been in rehearsal for the last three weeks, with Dyville, Quale and assistant director and choreographer Allayna Stevens putting the final touches on the show.

Madagascar tells the story of a group of Central Park Zoo animals who are unexpectedly shipped to Africa. Dyville said the cast of characters remains mostly unchanged from the film, but that the story itself has been altered slightly to fit the stage. Tanner Bercier, 14, plays Alex the Lion, one of the main characters of the show. He said the audience can expect a different experience watching the stage production rather than the film.

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"It's going to be a lot of fun," he said. "It's very similar to the movie, but there are certain things that have been taken out and added in that are really going to make it great."

A relative newcomer to theater, Bercier said being involved in such a complicated production has been fun, but also demanding.

"It can be challenging at times," he said. "I was actually very surprised at how intricate some of the songs are for what we're learning. But I think we'll be ready for opening."

Dyville said he and Quale created Y.E.S. when they were both starting out with Entertainment Inc!, because they saw a need for a theater program for the youth in the area. One of his favorite aspects of being involved, Dyville said, is seeing former Y.E.S. participants continuing in the theater arts and moving on to careers in the industry. It is due to this that Dyville and Quale will be honoring some of those past members by creating an "Alumni Hall of Fame."

Four past members have been chosen, in secret, and will be recognized after the final performance on July 19. Dyville said they plan to recognize alumni every year, with the hope that they can create a display in the Old Armory, where both Y.E.S. and Entertainment Inc! perform regularly.

Youth Education On Stage performs Madagascar July 17 to 19 at the Old Armory, with performances at 7 p.m. each night.

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