Wednesday, 26 June 2013

"King Kong" The Musical Melbourne World Premiere, review

Picture Source: Scott Barbour/Getty Images
Unique, groundbreaking, overblown, a mishmash of styles, poignant, ambitious - all of the above. The sheer scale of the production means that Australians will only see this in Melbourne. Who knows whether it will play in Broadway or London. This is no traditional musical comedy. Sometimes you think you are watching a hi tech rock concert spectacular - the incredible mega screens and projections.
It's like Baz Luhrmann has hijacked the proceedings. But for 95% of the time, it works. There are some mind blowing scenes that you won't forget in a hurry. "Full Moon Lullaby" is the standout song. "Rise" sung by the urban prophet of doom (Queenie Van De Zandt) is also good. The first song with its references to the iconic N.Y. skyscaper construction workers photograph (see below) and the German cult film "Metropolis".
The 30's chorus girls motif is overused but this is a minor quibble. Sound (I bet the guests next door at The Westin can hear the performance, especially the BOOMS), lighting, eclectic score, sets, myriad costumes, vocal talent -  all top shelf. Where has Esther Hannaford been? She was Tracy's best friend in "Hairspray". Now the leading lady, Esther Hannaford is a star as AnneDarrow. Her interplay with Kong is compelling.
This is state of the art musical theatre. In two and a half hours you are in midtown New York, on board ship, on Skull Island, backstage, atop the Empire State Building.

Oh.... not forgetting the simian star, Kong. The band of 13 puppeteers got one of the biggest rounds of applause on curtain call. The facial expressions on the mammoth (6 metre tall) beast are incredible. The 15 metre serpent fighting Kong will knock your socks off. The trippy mega screens, undulating stage, creepy Skull Island denizens (crawling from the ceiling), techno music made me think I was at a rave party. This is a new breed of musical theatre.
So many things could have gone wrong - all the cables, moving stages, electronics, hydraulics - this is only a month into its run - everything was flawless.
The clincher is premiering in The Regent, Melbourne's most opulent (1929) picture palace.

A little question: bit surprised about the muted applause after each song, during some of the matinee performance. Was it too loud for the old dears?
Seating tip: get a seat in the centre (to appreciate the trippy projections and screen effects), not too close (we sat 7 rows from the front in the Stalls). Perfect, but first 15 rows in the centre would be good. The Dress Circle balcony starts way back in the auditorium. Last 10 rows of Stalls, beware (the overhang means your view of the top part of stage is obstructed). Google seating plan of The Regent.

"When artisans were real men" Source:Slideshare

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