King Kong The Musical or the theme park spectacle?
I was both intrigued and excited to see King Kong Live On Stage (aka; The Musical) and share the excitement in Australia staging a ‘world theatre premier’ which is very rare. King Kong Live On Stage is five years in the making and has been created by Global Creatures who are the Australian team behind the global success of ‘Walking With the Dinosaurs’ and ‘How To Train Your Dragon’. There is a stella team of who’s who in the creative and technical departments gathered from all around the world. It is obvious that by working with ‘best in business’ from Theatre, Live Music, Animatronics and Film, the intention was to create a production that would appeal not only to Theatre goers but a much, much broader audience. So when I sat in my seat and put away my program (after studying it well and being impressed by the amount of work by such a dedicated teams of experts over the last five years) I was prepared to witness a stage production like no other. So what happened? Why did the 160 cast and crew members and millions of dollars of dazzling effects fail to impress?
Well, it did impress in parts but as a whole, King Kong Live On Stage does not cut it as the next biggest thing (haha) in Theatre. The set design is complex and unique, the lighting and AV effects are amongst the best I have ever seen and the animatronics around the one tonne beast are breathtaking. The actors performances seem to pale in to insignificance against the mighty production values of the show, there is no orchestra so the pre recorded music with live vocals fails to capture the same energy in the Theatre as it should and the plot, well, there isn’t much of one. On the night I went it seemed that the whole audience was genuinely disengaged because there is a real disconnect with the characters and the audience. It was quite apparent that everyone just wanted to see the hairy beast and ,he doesn’t disappoint!
I walked away underwhelmed but a little confused as to why. After digesting the show for a few days, it became clear what the problem is. The show has so many incredible ‘moments’ and design features but sadly nothing really connects. We couldn’t really care what happened to the characters because they were not very sincere and once we were dazzled by the production and effects the first couple of times, there was nowhere else to go. It seems that 90% of the efforts have been put in to the effects and technology with little time left to develop the story, characters , performances or even the music (a very abstract and wondering score that has no real direction).
King Kong Live On Stage claims to be a musical and thats the problem. I wonder if the technology wouldn’t have been better placed in a theme park or other type of short attraction where you can experience the incredible effects within perhaps 20 minutes or so and do away with the story, characters and music because they just don’t belong together. If you want to be truly dazzled by technical wizadry then don’t miss King Kong but if you’re expecting the new Broadway Blockbuster Musical…stay home and watch the original movie. PS The show wont tour Australia due to its size and complexity (several months spent bumping in to the Regent Theatre in Melbourne)
By: Antony Hampel