By Andrew Cunningham.
29th May, 2013.
Melbourne has some incredible things to be proud of. It’s shopping, culture, coffee and just laid back attitude to life are among many of those things. Now, we have Kong. In 2012 Melbourne was voted the worlds most liveable City and last night my wife and I experienced just an ounce of reason as to why that was. In a time when everything we do comes from, or is influenced by, the USA, UK and Europe, it’s refreshing to see such a professional and proud Aussie performance fit for the world. King Kong, a production 5 years in the making, truly is the greatest show on Earth.
Last night was the first show Globally for King Kong The Musical Theatre Event. And boy was it fun! The real opening night is billed for June 15th, however there will be a dozen or so shows between now and then which are marked as previews. What does that mean exactly? I’m really not sure. This, because last night we saw the full show and were even welcomed with a speech by the Director, Mr Daniel Kramer, on stage prior to the show. It’s a preview, but we saw the whole thing just as you would any other night at the Regent Theatre after its June 15th ‘opening’. I’d love if all previews at the Cinema were the full duration like Kong! That’s a lot of pop corn. June 15th will no doubt be the night they roll out the red carpet and celebrities.
The show opens really simple. It almost feels like it hasn’t actually started. The way they ‘borrow’ the audience as their audience is really spectacular. My first thought, however, was “gee, would a set-build have killed you?”. Don’t worry, it shifts in to gear with a bang only moments later! And I mean a bang! You’re then taken back to New York in the 20’s and can almost smell the Great Depression as if the soup pot is bubbling right next to you. Apples? Apples! two for ten! This show truly has the lot.
A few short scenes later and they demonstrate incredible use of a theatre screen which wraps the entire back of the stage. This really adds to the spectacle of the sets and helps define where you are at that moment in time. Another fantastic element is that the floor moves, as if they’re on-board a ship… destination Skull Island!
Kong, as he should, emerges for the first time in an exciting and ‘in your face’ scene which beckons the guests of the magnificent Regent Theatre to welcome their inner child to enjoy the show. A smile came upon my face and I whispered in my head “you did it, you crazy son of a bitch you did it”. Words which were fittingly used in the 1993 Spielberg classic Jurassic Park when eccentric mathematician, Dr Ian Malcolm, first saw Hammond’s dinosaur creations. Actually, there’s a number of comparisons one could make to the Spielberg blockbuster franchise, not least the sounds of Kong himself which I personally believe were very much modeled on Spielberg’s T-Rex from 20 years ago.
There are 13 brilliantly talented puppeteers, known behind the curtains as ‘The Kings Men’, who are responsible for Kong’s every movement around the elaborate set. While Kong’s facial expressions are entirely electronic, the task which the Kings Men execute is not only critical and complex, but musts also be done with a certain level of artistic elegance and precision so as not to take the audiences attention away from Kong himself. I found myself rarely noticing the Kings men at all, such was the grace in which they carried Kong.
Probably Kong was most in awe in a scene where he comes out over the front rows of the stage. Were you fortunate to be sitting in the front rows, you would need to have been poised looking directly up to marvel his incredible 1 tonne frame. This was absolutely something else and a feat I’ve simply not seen replicated before in theatre arts before. You will be inspired and feel a part of the show just to see this scene alone.
The only real negative is that should you wish to see Kong, and you do, you will need to travel. The state of Victoria anticipates hosting Kong to some 50,000 interstate guests during it’s Australian season which is expected to be 6 months or longer. That’s a staggering number of visitors and a real coup to the economy and tourism of the garden state of Victoria. It’s unfortunate that Kong can’t bring the show to every state in Australia, however such is the reality of the elaborate and complex world in which Kong demands to operate.
Finally, if you’re thinking of taking children to see The Eighth Wonder of the World, you might want to ensure you make a sensible decision for your own individual circumstances. So life like and realistic is King Kong, that he’s scary as hell too. Really scary in fact! There’s a few scenes when arriving on Skull Island which might keep younger children awake for at least the few nights following. Kong’s growling sound throughout is absolutely incredible. And then there’s the women. Blondes I believe! If you feel comfortable bringing your children to see a show comprising a dozen or more Blonde’s, dancing 20’s burlesque dressed in very scantily clad clothing, then this show is for you. I for one am not entirely sure. I would consider that any pre-teen kids might be best to give Kong a miss. This is pretty unfortunate and disappointing, but again it’s your decision to make. Be sure that you make an educated one.
My wife and I saw the show on a Tuesday night which meant we were both working prior and caught up in the City. She bought a dress, shoes and we had dinner in a lovely little restaurant-cafe in the City Square just before. The show started at 7pm and we were there at the majestic Regent Theatre at 6.30. My wife said “only in this incredible city can you buy an outfit, have dinner and still make the show on time”. Melbourne truly is a beautiful place to live, and with the King himself in town for the next 6 months it’s a beautiful place to play as well.
The incredible King Kong journey is expected to continue on to London’s West End or New York’s Broadway in 2014, but before it does, be sure that you have seen Kong. It truly is The Greatest Show on Earth from The Greatest City on Earth.
By Andrew Cunningham.
29th May, 2013.