King KongLOTL review on the musical King Kong

Imagine: Theatre dark, stage barely lit, when all of a sudden you see… Well, you’re not quite sure what you see, but you know that it’s amazing and like nothing you have ever seen before!

The production itself was amazing, with a cast of 50 dancers, actors and singers, over 500 costumes and spectacular lighting and a set that you could watch in action for hours, the show is anything but comparable to the original classic. It is in a league of its own.

Six Meters tall and operated by too many puppeteers to count the beast is breathtaking! With a well-muscled body, a plethora of men and women operating his hands and feet and an animatronic head, King Kong is jaw-dropping!

Body and the majority of his face hidden in shadow, it takes a few minutes for you to gauge the enormity of this amazing creature as the monster stomps, snorts and moves his hydraulically operated body across the stage.

But what I was most impressed with was his face!

Fully robotic and conveying a wide array of emotions, Kong shows you to anger, sleepy, frightened and everything in between. Making it all the more easy for the audience to feel for the poor beast when he is captured and put on a show.

As much as I loved the puppet, I did find that the production was missing a few key elements, the music for example was lacking that show-stopping tune that you would usually walk away with stuck in the back of your head. I also felt they did little to advance the plot. In fact, during some numbers, I questioned why it was present. Marius De Vries’ compositions were diverse and certainly entertaining, but I found that the repertoire lacked consistency and a unified vision.

The other thing I found missing was a substantial plot.

We all know the story, the girl meets the gorilla, the gorilla falls in love, gets taken to the city and is attacked whilst climbing the Empire State Building. But as far as the musical is concerned, that is all that happened.

There was no depth of character shown, nor any evidence of how Darrow and Kong’s relationship blossomed. I’m a sucker for romance, so I would have liked to have seen more.

The bold, modern design, complex (and somewhat distracting) laser lighting and projections create a substantial stage presence even with the absence of a cast. However, I feel as though due to the amount of stage action and overwhelming visual stimulus, some scenes are overwrought, busy and dizzying.

While the production is a triumph of state-of-the-art technology, only time and public reaction will determine whether King Kong the musical can achieve the cult status of the classic 1933 movie upon which it is based.