King Kong: Alive on Broadway
“One dress and yeah I guess I’m a mess, but I won’t rest til I am the Queen of New York!
So watch me as I go, cause no one even knows
I’m gonna be the Queen of New York” ~ Queen Of New York ~ King Kong
Dawg Days for Broadway
While I adore summer, it is truly the dawg days after the Tony’s in the theatre world. With seven (YES, SEVEN!) Broadway shows closing in August, it is a metaphorical blood bath for theatre. Unfortunately, it does not come as a surprise the shows that are closing and that includes King Kong.
Admittedly this review (for this blog) comes a tad late with just three weeks left to see the show. But better late then never, right?
I had the pleasure of seeing King Kong on Broadway this past spring and it was an experience. I admit I was weary and I honestly had no idea what to expect thanks to extremely mixed reviews. More seasoned theatre goers incredibly harsh in their often right opinions of the show, while the tourists were in awe of the technical elements which also were impressive as they did win a special Tony for. In true Gemini fashion, I understood both sides.
If there is one thing the King Kong production team is good at, it is marketing an experience and King Kong IS an experience. Located in the magnificent and (quite) large Broadway Theatre, the opulence and of course the name, draws anyone visiting New York and wanting the Broadway adventure.
The ornate theatre is fit for a king, even if it is of the primate kind. With a large glitzy lobby, complete with glittering chandeliers, it pays homage not only to the theatre days of a time where everyone dressed up, but is also fitting for the era of the show. Much like the Lyric Theatre that is home to Harry Potter, it beckons patrons to mingle and snap pictures before the show and during intermission. While the theatre is inviting, the story is anything but.
Based on the King Kong Franchise, the show tells the story of a girl who moves to New York with dreams of becoming famous. Trying to make ends meet as she fails to get her big break, she meets a manipulative director who takes her to Skull Island on the promise of a big acting gig. It is there she encounters King Kong and struggles with doing what is morally right or following her dreams.
I have said it countless times, seeing a story come to life on Broadway is magical whether it is a movie or an original script. It brings to life and makes the audience feel the emotion much more vividly then at the cinema. It is why I oftentimes prefer Broadway to the movies. While horror movies, can be entertaining, many times they lack a concrete fluid plot and unfortunately the Broadway adaption of King Kong, which is based on the original film, falls short in plot fluidity and character development.
Acting and Music
Despite a plot riddled with holes and cringe-worthy dialogue, the cast was insanely talented and made the show enjoyable. On the night I went, the lead role of Ann Darrow was played by Jennifer Noble, who is the understudy for Christiani Pitts. She was incredible, bringing a likability and confidence that was otherwise missing in the writing. Her voice was phenomenal, she brought the emotion, and made the audience feel every note in Full Moon Lullaby and The Wonder, in an otherwise detached show.
Another welcome surprise was how talented the ensemble was. They carried the show, keeping the audience engaged through each number including the orchestral suites. Reminiscent of Swing, it brought an old school feel back to Broadway.
The music was the biggest shocker and impressed me immensely. While it is largely orchestral with jazzy dance sequences, the songs, Like Queen of New York, were catchy and showcased the actors pipes. In fact I loved them so much, that I had hoped that they would cave and give us a cast recording. Unfortunately, I do not think that will happen now.
This IS the Moment
Oops, wrong musical, but it is appropriate, because THE moment of the show is when the King makes his appearance on stage. Called the Kings Company, Kong’s puppeteers were arguably the most impressive part of the show. Moving him around the stage in choreographed unison, they jumped on and off of him in seamless acrobatics resembling more of a Cirque du Soleil show then a Broadway one. They were as engaging to watch as King himself was.
While Kong was impressive in size and movements, his features leave a little to be desired. While he is suppose to be both feared and lovable, he resembles more of a mutated bull dog then a gorilla. It detracts from the over all story and there were times when even the imagination, which no doubt Broadway shows do entail a heavy dose of, was difficult to come by.
Overall it was an entertaining night on Broadway. I can understand the critical reviews as well as why people enjoyed it. Was it a show that moved me and made me pause to contemplate and reflect? Definitely not! Nor is it a show that makes me want to see it again and again.
But it was a show that is revolutionary with it’s puppeteering and technically, a visionary novelty. While the story fell short, the cast was entertaining and the music a surprising delight. It is perfect for a couple hours of escapism or for those wanting to be thrilled without being moved. It is always sad when a Broadway show closes, but a part of me will miss the King, even if he does resemble a mutated bull dog.
You will be able to see The King until August 18. Have you seen King Kong? Have you seen the Movies?