Meet the Peterborough actor starring in Madagascar The Musical this week
Francisco Gomes, a former pupil at Jack Hunt School in Netherton, plays Marty the Zebra in the stage musical tribute to the 2005 DreamWorks animated film, which you can see at New Theatre from Wednesday to Saturday.
"It's a massive thing for me to be able to come back to Peterborough and realise a dream," said the recent graduate, who completed his A-levels in the city in 2020 before taking a degree course in musical theatre at the acclaimed Italia Conti Academy,
"I spent a lot of time dreaming about playing here, I am so excited. I performed in the hall at school and at the Key Theatre so it is like I keep upgrading! It is a beautiful moment, one I have dreamed of and is now coming true."
Marty, one of the group of friends who escape from their home in New York’s Central Park Zoo and find themselves on an unexpected journey to the madcap world of King Julien’s Madagascar, is Francisco's second professional role since graduating in the summer.
And it is a far cry from life before moving to the UK from his native Portugal as a 12 year-old, less than a decade ago.
"I lived in Porto until I was 12 and didn't really have much exposure to musical theatre. I loved singing and dancing but had never really got into the storytelling side of things. When I got to Jack Hunt they were doing Hairspray and I had no idea.
"Then in Year 9 we did Beauty and The Beast and I felt so happy and exhilarated by it – but I had no idea where it would lead to."
Roles followed in Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Little Shop of Horrors and last year the leading role in Jesus Christ Superstar - the Kindred Drama Key Youth Theatre summer musical.
"I joined Kindred in 2017 because one of my friends was involved," recalled Francisco. "I went along to one of the trials, and we were on the stage in the main auditorium and it felt so unreal. And that was that. I met so many like-minded people and made so many beautiful friendships . And Jesus Christ Superstar last year was such an exciting time."
Francisco made his professional debut in an all-male version of The Mikado, which played for four weeks in London followed by a short tour, before landing the role of Marty.
And it is clearly a role he is loving.
"I started studying for my degree during the pandemic but from staying focussed on what I wanted I am now doing Madagascar The Musical. I knew I had the passion and dedication to achieve my dreams and I can't see myself doing anything else."
The tour opened in Plymouth two weeks ago, then played Cheltenham before arriving here on Wednesday.
" I just love the reaction of the children in the audience," he says. "They get so engaged. There is a moment where Marty goes to find Alex (the king of the urban jungle, and main attraction at the zoo) and the kids all start shouting and pointing. Seeing that is so heart-warming. It makes me feel like I must be doing something right.”
Starring CBBC and Strictly Come Dancing Star, Karim Zeroual as King Julien get ready to join Alex, Marty, Melman, Gloria and those hilarious, plotting penguins as they bound onto stage in the musical adventure of a lifetime.
Tickets are available at www.newtheatre-peterborough.com