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King Kong - spectacular mammoth marionette falls short of saving theme park event





Oscar E. Moore “from the rear mezzanine” for Talk Entertainment.com

Remember the original Gong Show? Mid-70’s TV fare? Where amateur talent might be stopped mid-act by the “striking of a large gong” putting an abrupt end to the dubious talent on view. Every so often, especially before the beasts roaring, majestic entrance on the same stage that Ethel Merman wowed in GYPSY, I was hoping desperately that I could strike that old gong. So ridiculous were the goings-on.

Remember CINERAMA? Innovative 50’s film process where a deeply curved screen had you whizzing along in a roller coaster? Projections seemingly putting you in the picture? This process has been updated and improved tremendously by ARTISTS IN MOTION. The projections in KING KONG are one of the true stars of this technological wonder. Especially the rolling seas on board the SS Wanderer that almost induces seasickness or is it the script?

Remember when a musical had memorable music? Real, tuneful songs with great lyrics? Not just some cinematic background instrumentals (underscoring by Marius de Vries) that reminds one of the good ol’ MGM days or is it Victory at Sea? - With “songs” by Eddie Perfect. Which they aren’t. But KING KONG isn’t billed as a musical. So the powers that be say. What is it then?

Based on the classic 1933 film (and its remakes) KONG has been adapted to the stage by none other than Jack Thorne who has been given the almost impossible task of writing the connective tissue that surrounds the beast. It is most difficult to believe that he also wrote the terrific book for HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD. Here we have one dimensional characters that can’t decide if what they are saying is meant to be dead serious or satirical. The dialogue falls flat somewhere in between.

Unfortunately the actress portraying Ann Darrow (Christiani Pitts) who is “a warrior and not a damsel in distress” lacks just about everything and that is what brought back vivid memories of the infamous gong. We never care about her. She does however have a strong voice.

The opportunistic director Carl Denham (an earnest and determined Eric William Morris) searching for a star for his project to be filmed on Skull Island finds Ann in a diner, offers her the stardom she seeks and lots of glamorous outfits if she can scream on cue and look pretty.

Erik Lochtefeld as Carl’s assistant Lumpy comes off best. He and the beast do some actual emoting on stage.

The beast is what will sell some tickets. He is the star that doesn’t sing or dance or speak. The show cost 35 million dollars to produce – with a list of producers almost as long as the large cast of characters on stage at the Broadway Theatre – one of the only theaters large enough to house the beast that is a mammoth marionette (creature designer Sonny Tilders) operated by ten marionettists/puppeteers in full view of the audience which diminishes the effect even though they are clothed in black.

But are people willing to shell out big bucks to see this gargantuan fiberglass marionette roar, pounce, leap tall buildings in a single bound, show off his pearly whites, roar, sniff, fall in love, roar, save Ann from another mammoth snake puppet, be captured roaring, brought back to New York to be the star of a ludicrous Dames at Sea type musical version of what we have just been suffering through, then running amuck through the streets of New York and finally going apeshit atop a high rise as planes shoot him down?

I suggest watching the video trailer on line instead.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/e6XsJ3y7L9s?controls=1&enablejsapi=1&modestbranding=1&rel=0&showinfo=0

For the record, the beast is 20 feet high. 2,000 pounds. Computer operated along with the village of guys physically moving him around the stage. This truly is magnificent. Especially his eyes. This silver back gorilla has its eyes on success in New York but unfortunately for all its technological wonders the production falls way short. Great, bravo inducing Lighting Design (Peter Mumford) Sound Design (Peter Hylenski) and Kong/Aerial Movement Director, Gavin Robins.

This theme park looking production hailing from Melbourne (2013) is sadly misdirected and bizarrely choreographed by Drew McOnie.

Next! Roll the credits, please.

www.kingkongbroadway.com

2 hrs. 30 minutes. One intermission.

Photo: Matthew Murphy


  
11-17-18