My Variety Review: 'King Kong' Or, Gorilla My Dreams
“He’s not a film, he’s theater!” says the movie director in the musical “King Kong,” when he realizes that the mighty creature he is about to capture is best presented on a proscenium stage.
After an earlier production in Australia and with the addition of a largely new creative team, the producers (led by Global Creatures) of this $35-million Broadway epic, based on the classic 1933 film, have re-envisioned the story in striking theatrical terms, using dazzling projections, super-sized puppetry and lush underscoring to create one thrill ride of a show. Topping the list of visual wows is the magnificent, moving and oh-so-expressive title character who, alas, is not eligible for a Tony.
There’s no mention of “musical” in the this musical’s marketing, which is probably a good idea. The show, directed and choreographed by Drew McOnie, disappoints in its mishmash of musical styles — “42nd Street,” “The Last Ship,” even Mel Brooks come to mind as the production runs its course. Individual songs by Eddie Perfect (“Beetlejuice“) are blandly generic and forgettable, though Marius de Vries’ score and Christopher Jahnke’s orchestrations give the show a kind of cinematic swept, as well as transitional cover and emotional underpinnings.
Jack Thorne, an expert at scripting shows of immense size, sweep and wonder — he penned “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” — here is a narrative minimalist, concentrating the sizable story to just a trio of characters — and one who doesn’t speak at all. Kong doesn’t sing or dance, but you could say he has one of the best 11 o’clock numbers around when he approaches the apron of the stage to break through the fourth wall.
There’s also more than a few cliches, and a set-up that’s a stretch. “We’re following a map acquired from a Norwegian to an island I don’t know much about,” says filmmaker Carl Denham (Eric William Morris). Uh-huh.