Before the curtain rises on King Kong, audiences see an out-of-focus (at least the night I was in attendance) projected silhouette of Kong towering over Ann Darrow, a woman plucked from the streets of New York City to become a star. I adjusted my glasses, tilted my head up and down, then to the side. I squinted, too, but no matter how I altered my view, the image was slightly off-kilter. Two-and-a-half hours later, I was still doing the same thing.
There’s been plenty of buzz about the $35 million puppet extravaganza that opened last night at The Broadway Theatre, but little commentary about the score (Marius de Vries), book (Jack Thorne), or songs (Eddie Perfect). Powerhouse creatives like Marsha Norman, Craig Lucas and Jason Robert Brown were all, at one point or another, connected with the project in earlier incarnations, but jumped ship or were forced to walk the plank.
Ultimately, the SS Wanderer made its way to Skull Island to capture the giant silverback and bring him back to Broadway in the form of a 20-foot-tall, 2,000-pound gorilla. A ten-member company affectionately called The King’s Company (comprised of eight men and two women) operates the puppet from the stage floor through a series of intricate cables, while three Voodoo Operators sit in a soundproof control booth in the back of the mezzanine to bring the beast’s animatronics to life. It’s a technological marvel to behold, but one that’s overshadowed by a lack of chemistry or stage presence among the leading actors, save Christiani Pitts as Ann Darrow.