The musical King Kong, at the Broadway Theatre, is a $36 million Australian show that stars an artificial 20-foot-tall, 20,000-pound silverback gorilla, with puppetry that makes his movements come alive and leaves the audience in awe.
The puppetry is the best thing about the show, based on the 1933 classic film starring Fay Wray, and directed and choreographed by Drew McOnie. The cast is led by Christiani Pitts, reprising Wray’s role as Ann Darrow, the woman Kong falls in love with and who conversely falls for the big ape. Eric William Morris plays Carl Denham, the filmmaker and promoter who sponsors a voyage to the mysterious Skull Island to capture Kong and bring him back to New York. Marius de Vries’ orchestration of Eddie Perfect’s music adds to the drama.
King Kong himself does not sing, but has an ear-piercing roar. The animated ape is controlled by a joystick, computers, and ten on-stage puppeteers. The most spectacular part of the show is when Kong escapes his bonds and races through New York City, picks up Ann Darrow, and climbs to the top of the Empire State Building. If you saw the movie, you’ll know the climatic lines: “Oh no, it wasn’t the airplanes. It was beauty that killed the beast.”
None of this, however, is enough to bring forth an entertaining Broadway musical. If you want to see a spectacular where King Kong comes alive on stage, by all means go, but overall, this show would fit better in the song-and-dance routines at Universal Studios or Disneyland.