A brand-new, Australian-made, multi-million dollar musical theatre production of King Kong was launched Sunday October 8 in the Plaza Ballroom at Melbourne’s Regent Theatre. At an intimate lunchtime concert, audiences were given the chance to meet cast and creatives of King Kong Live on Stage, and to hear a three-song selection from the score, accompanied by a full orchestra.
One notable absence on the day was the Kong himself, who, at a burly seven metres, or 40 times the size of a regular gorilla, would have struggled with even the Ballroom’s high ceilings. Global Creatures, the production company behind Walking with Dinosaurs and How to Train Your Dragon, have spent four years working on the mighty simian at their West Melbourne workshop, and, according to CEO Carmen Pavlovic, he’ll be ready to roar early next year.
Following the example of such recent puppet-spectaculars as War Horse and The Lion King, this Kong, a highly stylised silverback, will be manipulated by up to 40 onstage performers. As director Daniel Kramer says, it’s a “wonderful reminder that much of the magic of puppetry is in seeing the puppeteer.”
The show’s non-monkey leads will be as familiar to fans of Melbourne’s independent theatre scene as they will to the musical theatre crowd. Esther Hannaford, whose angelic presence recently illuminated both Four Larks’ The Plague Dances and Paul Dainty’s production of Hairspray, will play Ann Darrow, the slender dame abducted by the angry ape. Adam Lyons will play Carl Denham, the exploitative producer, Chris Ryan will play the adventurer Jack Driscoll, Richard Piper, the captain of the ship searching for Kong, and cabaret star Queenie van de Zandt will sing Cassandra.
The Regent Theatre show will be King Kong’s only appearance in Australia, the period-decorated Collins Street theatre making an appropriate setting for his rampage through 1930s New York.
Judging by Sunday’s performance, the score will be a stylistic mash-up of contemporary Broadway show tunes and big-beat electronica. Artists contributing to the musical include lyricist Michael Mitnick, composer Marius de Vries, Robert del Naja from Massive Attack, Sarah McLachlan, Justice and the Avalanches.
“It’s just the combination you’d expect,” explains Kramer, “if you take King Kong, who has his own musical language, and smash it into New York City.”
Previews May 28-Jun 14, 2013. Opening night Jun 15.