In early 2013, a King Kong musical will premiere in Melbourne, Australia before moving to Broadway later in the year. King Kong: Live on Stage is being produced by Carmen Pavlovic, CEO of Global Creatures, the Australian company behind Walking with Dinosaurs and How to Train Your Dragon Arena Spectacular.
It will feature a 23-foot-tall animatronic Kong created by The Creature Technology Company, along with a cast of more than 40 actors, singers, dancers and puppeteers.
|Animatronic Kong under construction|
From The Guardian:
Steve Tilders, who has worked as an engineer for the Jim Henson Company's Creature Shop, will design the robotic Kong. "We are making huge leaps from what we created for the dinosaurs," he said. "King Kong is the key character, who will have to command the stage and act alongside actors. When he scratches his nose, for instance, it will have to be done in one fluid, controlled motion where all the muscles up his arm will move at once and he has enough control not to accidentally punch a hole in his face!''
From The Australian:
From a producer's point of view, titles such as King Kong... are "huge brands", and the reason Pavlovic's company is keen to bring them to the stage is that "they embody certain values that you think are going to appeal to the public. So for me, it's not about saying, 'These are well-known titles so my shameless commercial side thinks we'll make money.' I think they actually have the potential to capture what was the essence of that brand to begin with and find new ways to embody those values on stage."
She believes the classic 1933 Depression-era film King Kong has a lot to say today. A beauty and the beast romance, it tells of a giant ape taken from its tropical island home and displayed in a New York vaudeville theatre, only to escape and go berserk. The city is saved by King Kong's love for an actress.
"There are a lot of layers to the piece intellectually," Pavlovic says. "I think it's got a lot of messages for us in 2013: ideas about the environment, culture, power and racial politics. The added bonus is a love story that people know and characters that people recognise. To be able to portray all that in a fresh way is a very exciting challenge creatively."
"But it's not enough these days to just make a musical from a film or whatever; you need a point of difference," Withers argues. "Audience expectations just continue to grow for what you can do on a stage with three walls, hence why we're seeing the development of something like King Kong, for example, where it's larger than life. It's about trying to come up with something new."
"The downside of having a well-known title is that it can also make people come with a huge preconception about what it is. I'd say that's more so for King Kong..." Pavlovic says there are people who think: "They can't do a monkey on stage that's believable." (Although anyone who saw Walking with Dinosaurs or How to Train Your Dragon won't doubt it.) "People say, 'tell me King Kong doesn't sing, please tell me he doesn't'," she adds. "So people have preconceptions before you start. It can give you a lot of negative stuff that you have to counter."According to the official website, "the music in KING KONG will feature several new songs by Marius de Vries who is also writing the incidental musical score, as well as arranging the classic period songs that will be featured in the production."