Now on Broadway: a staging of the epic tale of a narcissistic director, his leading lady and the enormous ape they discover on a distant island. Even if you think you know the story, the high-tech production and modern updates make it feel fresh. And, oh yeah, there’s the incredible King Kong himself.
1. King Kong will take your breath away. The towering 20-foot, 2,000-pound ape puppet has to be seen to be believed. On-stage puppeteers seamlessly move the hands and body with a system of pullies, and the facial movements (controlled by a team behind the scenes) are so lifelike you could be fooled into thinking the creature is real. There were multiple gasps when Kong made his way to the front of the stage to stare down the audience.
2. Ann Darrow is a modern woman. The show sticks to the 1930s setting of the original story, but the leading lady has more agency than in previous versions. Case in point: she doesn’t scream. She roars.
3. The staging feels immersive. From the rocking boat voyage bound for Skull Island to the clever use of on-stage screens that whip you through the jungle and a burning Manhattan, it’s easy to feel like you are moving along with the characters.
4. The show within a show is cheeky fun. The big event to present King Kong to the New York audience comes together as a low-budget staging of the show you are actually seeing, played with a wink. The dashing—though a bit dim—leading man performs his part to the point of camp, and the doomed chorus girls also make the most of their big moment.
5. The final battle is heart-stopping. Yes, with a bit of stage trickery, King Kong climbs a skyscraper with Ann in hand. Zooming planes and flying bullets are created with sound and light effects, and there is a palpable sadness as the wounded King Kong falls.
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