Popular TV presenter, theatre performer and Strictly finalist Karim Zeroual leads the cast of Madagascar the Musical as the hilarious King Julien. Best known for anchoring CBBC and reaching the final of Strictly Come Dancing in 2019. We spoke to Karim before the show heads to Manchester next week

How are things 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.

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.

Bury Times: Karim Zeroual as King Julien in Madagascar the Musical

I have been honing 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 time, 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.

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.

Without giving to 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’ which 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 tower 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 three foot 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.

Bury Times: Karim Zeroual

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.

Who do you think will enjoy Madagascar?

This is a show 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 steaming 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. 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 is at Manchester Opera House from Thursday, February 8 to Sunday, February 11. Details from www.atgtickets.com