The eighth wonder of the world? King Kong is probably not even the eighth wonder of Broadway, these children of The Ferryman will not give up their place in the short term, but the great monkey offers incredible emotions.
Choose the story of the beautiful and the beast of the Hollywood Depression so that it still works and give up what does not work: the cast of African-American Christiani Pitts in the role of Ann Darrow quickly eliminates the handsome ideal of the beautiful blonde Fay Wray, director Drew McOnie captured an impressive 1.2 ton puppet, although the musical environment is considerably less memorable.
So let’s go hunting. The figure in this reported $ 35 million production is incredible: it’s a hybrid of animatronics, puppets and human performance 20 feet high. Fifteen puppeteers, mainly on stage, work the beast with ropes, sticks and pulleys, a spectacle in themselves as they slide along the cables like ninjas. Each roar and groan is expressed by an actor with effects, Jon Hoche, who gives the creature immediate and real answers.
Kong’s facial expressions (all the demonstrations of strength that come from the teeth, each cautious look of confused affection, painful moans) are charming and at least as convincing as any CGI or motion-stop engaged in a movie for decades. When the animal finally gets up completely, leaning so threateningly on the front row of the audience, the effect is really scary. The response to the performance I attended was a nervous laugh followed by applause.
While Kong can be bred and quickly bred on the fly space on stage, his movements on stage, running, jumping, sometimes through the jungle, sometimes to Manhattan, are suggested by the movements in place and the lights honed by the laser. . Think of the “Star Gate” sequence of 2001: an odyssey of space.
Unfortunately, the only other monster on stage is not up to par, a giant snake that brought back memories of Mummenschanz. In fact, the whole society could be more terrifying. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child were all the necessary recent evidence that children did not need molododling when it came to the excitement of the screenplay. Kong too often goes on the road to Disney while sharing a writer with Potter – Jack Thorne. There is not as much as the suggestion of any human bite.
The musical begins – 40 minutes or so before Kong’s first appearance – in the 1930s in New York, well transmitted through film screenings of the old city, as if the characters were visiting a melodrama in black and white. from the big metropolis on the rise. The first image we get is that of men coming down on construction cranes, a jungle of steel that is taking shape before our eyes.
Soon we meet Carl Denham (the excellent Eric William Morris), a P.T. Barnum meets Oz, gathering a film crew for a mysterious project on Skull Island. After seeing and choosing the beautiful and brave Ann Darrow (Pitts, who fits the role well), an actress of the bread line, Denham & Co., has reached the high seas.
You know the rest. Denham, Darrow and a reluctant team finally arrive at Skull Island, mainly through screenings. The beauty is captured by the beast, the beast is captured by the director and a stage start goes terribly wrong. The biplanes follow.
King Kong does not play with this basic scheme, but crucial details have been changed for modern sensibilities. The stereotypical inhabitants of Skull Island are not in sight, replaced by a sensitive flora that unites Ann to the great sacrifice. Why does not Denham save himself and the city of New York a lot of trouble when the refueling of some of these creatures is not addressed?
But the biggest change is happening at Darrow. Pitts’ Ann, if she says it herself, is not a “damsel in distress”. He does not scream either, he responds with a roar, a reaction that becomes quite silly, even more for some sound effects of cartoons (Peter Hylenski The sound design is, for the rest, noisy and excellent).
The quick link between Ann and Kong, who only really looks terrified when the Mummenschanz snake calls it, makes it a respectful approach to the Disney Princess’s power children, thus undermining fear. A better companion named Lumpy (Erik Lochtefeld) adds an extra note to the sentimentality of Jiminy Cricket.
And although there are shadows #MeToo: Denham, who becomes a villain, threatens to cancel his career at Ann, unless it continues the plot to explode and endanger Kong, his beloved : the most important modernization has a conservative message, quite convincing and welcome. and the call for the destruction of wildlife by humanity, including a wildlife as threatening as Kong.
Unfortunately, modernization extends to music. Eddie Perfect’s songs are mostly genres of contemporary scenes, with some of the settings of the 1930s era. McOnie’s choreography tends to give energetic chorus numbers and, as in the scenes of opening of the New Yorkers of New York. York, the dances are entertaining without being particularly remarkable.
The musical numbers will certainly not prevent you from wanting to access the matter of Kong, which is worth it, as when the king finally climbs into the Empire State Building, we see it from inside the building, as if we looked out. the Windows
Most of the time, Marius de Vries’s score adds to the excitement, though not all of Kong’s important moments are organized as effectively as the empire’s escalation. The chained appearance of Kong in a New York theater is going well, it’s a good goal (Denham claims that Kong should never have been a movie star), but his escape from the place with the place is a fault. There is no doubt about it, but we can say that the revelation of a decimated New York does not make much sense, to our knowledge, since Kong is propagated by an asteroid in New York and not by a giant monkey.
And I will not reveal the details of the powerful and fatal fall of the beast, except to say that it works as long as it does not work. McOnie and Thorne make the mistake of going too far in the story, ending the musical with a note of Ann’s empowerment. It’s good and everything, but there’s a big dead gorilla somewhere that does not feel so good. King Kong becomes the princess of Disney, while looking for a queen Scream.