Reviews – King Kong @ Regent Theatre 14/11/2013

New York and London are known for Broadway and The West End, however Australia’s cultural city Melbourne was the chosen city for the world premiere of King Kong on stage.

Recently celebrating its 150th show, King Kong is visually stunning with its LED screens backdrop, movable stages, colourful costumes and sets, dancers and acrobats and of course the star of the show, a six metre high lifelike gorilla puppet. The list goes on.

Set out in two acts, King Kong tells the story of Ann Darrow (Esther Hannaford), a poor woman nabbed by filmmaker Carl Denham (Adam Lyon), to travel to Skull Island on a ship to become ‘Hollywood’s next big thing.’ On the ship to the island Darrow meets and falls in love with the ship’s first mate Jack Driscoll (Chris Ryan). Upon arriving in Skull Island Darrow forms a special bond with Kong. Darrow becomes the central figure who can keep Kong calm. Denham takes Kong back to New York to be showcased centre stage as a theatrical spectacular, as Darrow endeavours to save her special friend from the limelight and the money-grabbing Denham.

Operated by ten puppeteers onstage as well an additional three behind the scenes, according to the show’s program, the towering Kong – a beast to some, a tender creature to others – weighs over 1000kgs and requires 300 metres of electrical cables, 1500 connections, 16 microprocessors (such as the circuit system that computers function on) and has an on-board hydraulics systems to operate.

The animatronics used to control the beast made the puppet so lifelike that Kong was able to show facial expressions,  movement of his mouth and even the eyes could move! Despite his size he moved across the stage gracefully, however, his roar was so powerful, you felt the floor vibrate. Unlike earlier depictions of Kong, this one has him acting less like a gorilla and more like a human being.

Having such modern artists music contribute to the show, including international artists French electro duo Justice,  and Guy Garvey from UK band Elbow and Australia’s own Sarah McLachlan and The Avalanches among others brought a modern taste to the classic film first produced in 1933. Kong’s triumphant anthem was the intro of Justice’s epic track Genesis performed as ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’. The compositions were put together by Marius de Vries, who has worked alongside theatre producer extraordinaire Andrew Lloyd Webber and also contributed musically to Baz Luhrmann classics Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge!

At the conclusion of the show a handful of theatre-goers attempted a standing ovation, but failed miserably as not many others joined in. With the amount of clapping throughout the show and cheering, I expected the whole theatre to be standing!

The only bad thing I can say about the show is that at times there were so many performers on stage at the one time,  alongside the props and visuals that I just didn’t know who or what to watch. Despite this anomaly, the performers were flawless in both vocals and choreography and were a joy to watch. I found myself hardly listening to the songs but rather being captivated by the visuals. It was the little things, like the red rips in Kong’s costume when he was shot multiple times, the flashes of light projected onto Kong as shots from rifles hit him, Kong’s sniffing people out and the LED backdrops that caught my eyes. Additionally, I found myself laughing, smiling and getting excited throughout the entire show.

Therefore, I can assure you the amount you pay to see the show is definitely worth the money for an entertaining night at the theatre.

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