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Broadway Review: “King Kong” at the Broadway Theatre (Currently On)

Photo: Christiani Pitts as “Ann Darrow” and “King Kong.” Credit: Joan Marcus.
Broadway Review: “King Kong” at the Broadway Theatre (Currently On)
Book by Jack Thorne
Score by Marius de Vries
Songs by Eddie Perfect
Directed and Choreographed by Drew McOnie
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

It is difficult to imagine that anyone would not know the story of “King Kong” since the first film release was in 1933 and many new versions being released with the most recent in 2017, as well as being broadcast on television for the first time in 1956. In 1998, The American Film Institute ranked it as #43 on the list of 100 greatest movies of all time. So now the latest incarnation is a musical with a score composed by Marius de Vries, songs by Eddie Perfect and a book by Jack Thorne, that is now on stage at the Broadway Theatre. Mr. Thorne has written the weakest part of the collaboration, but with all due respect it truly does not diminish the effort put forth since nothing new has been exposed since the original story and at its worst, some sequences are just frivolous and unnecessary. The lyrics by Mr. Perfect are a qualified effort to move the plot along in an informative way but do not sustain the dramatic arc of the piece. Mr. de Vries has composed music that captures the drama and excitement of the story but is less successful when attempting to enhance the emotional content of the character. After these three factors are considered, the realization occurs that regardless of the stature of these elements, they all pale in comparison to the enormous feat accomplished by the design, creation and operation of megaprimatus Kong.

In the words of W.C. Fields “never work with children or animals”, and in this case a puppet of a silverback gorilla that is 20 ft. tall and weighs in at over a ton. The King’s company (operators) aren’t just the visual levers of Kong; they are emotionally attached to his movement, so the audience experiences the duality of puppet and human puppeteer, keeping in sync with the ancient Japanese Bunraku principle. All the movement produced by their extremely athletic and meticulous handling must be perfectly synchronized to produce the correct emotion that matches each precise gesture. It is not a negative comment to admit that this incredible creature really does steal the show, thanks to puppet designer Jonny Tilders and movement director Gavin Robins. This is an unprecedented spectacular event that is worthy of a Broadway stage and equally supported by the scenic and projection design of Peter England, sound designer Peter Hylenski and lighting designer Peter Mumford, all of which add to the suspension of disbelief.

The actors who have taken the challenge of sharing the stage with this powerful and emotionally beautiful creature do their very best with the material they are given and end up being a great supporting cast for the gargantuan star. Eric William Morris succeeds in capturing the evil entrepreneur, (Carl Denham) being sly and cunning while exhibiting an infectious baritone. Erik Lochtefeld brings a sensibility to his character (Lumpy), without stereotype or histrionic behavior, relying more on the intellectual. Stepping into the legendary role of the Ann Darrow is a fierce Christiani Pitts, with powerful vocals, emotional dexterity and choices that elevate her relationship with Kong to a new level of understanding the complications of beauty and the beast. The entire cast is competent and executes the sometimes-frenetic choreography of director Drew McOnie with enthusiasm as the show moves along at a comfortable pace.

The question will remain in many theatergoers’ minds; is this a good Broadway musical? After much dissection the answer will probably be no. What it proves to be is a wonderful artistic achievement that surpasses expectations. One definition of “theatre” is “a presentation considered in terms of its dramatic quality”; therefore, it may be concluded that this is an acceptable and enjoyable piece of theatre. By no means is it perfect but the audience will not even care, as they are swept up by the amazing creature, who is brought to life by the hearts and souls of eleven human handlers, who enable him to speak with his fluid eyes, love with a gentle touch, show anger with powerful movement and a forceful roar and finally succumb to his hostile adversaries, only to die. Quite dramatic!

KING KONG

The cast of “King Kong” is led by Christiani Pitts as Ann Darrow, Eric William Morris as Carl Denham, and Erik Lochtefeld as Lumpy. The “King Kong” ensemble includes Ashley Andrews, Mike Baerga, Rhaamell Burke-Missouri, Chloë Campbell, Leroy Church, Peter Chursin, Jōvan Dansberry, Kayla Davion, Rory Donovan, Casey Garvin, Christopher Hampton Grant, Jon Hoche, Gabriel Hyman, Harley Jay, James T. Lane, Marty Lawson, Jonathan Christopher MacMillan, Danny Miller, Brittany Marcell Monachino, Jennifer Noble, Kristen Faith Oei, Eliza Ohman, Roberto Olvera, Jaquez André Sims, Khadija Tariyan, Jena VanElslander, Scott Austin Weber, Jacob Williams, Lauren Yalango-Grant, Warren Yang, and David Yijae.

“King Kong’s” design team for Broadway includes Sonny Tilders (Kong Developer), Peter England (Scenic and Projection Design), Roger Kirk (Costume Design), Peter Mumford (Lighting Design), Peter Hylenski (Sound Design), Gavin Robins (Aerial and King Kong Movement Director) and Tom Watson (Hair Design). David Caddick is Music Supervisor and Eldad Guetta is Associate Music Arranger.

Tickets to “King Kong” are now on sale through Telecharge.com, by phone at 212-239-6200 and online at www.Telecharge.com. Tickets for groups of ten or more are available by calling 866-302-0995 or by email at info@broadwayinbound.com. For complete pricing and performance schedule, please visit https://kingkongbroadway.com/. Running time is 2 hours and 30 minutes with an intermission.

Photo: Christiani Pitts as “Ann Darrow” and “King Kong.” Credit: Joan Marcus.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Monday, November 26, 2018