Note: I am in no way affiliated with the show King Kong on Broadway and do not recoup any financial benefit from positive words of praise. I’m just a girl with a crush on an oversized Gorilla.
I first wrote about King Kong back in October after having the opportunity to see the show in previews. I arrived at the theater with reluctance but free is free, so why not? Immediately I was riveted not so much by the content of the show, but by the staging, the integration of the moving visuals on the screen, and by it’s completely and utterly captivating star: King Kong. I did two things on the backside of this viewing: I secured a giant order of tickets for a matinee in January and wrote this King Kong confessional on the blog.
Tickets sold, but not as many as I had predicted. Then the reviews by the critics dropped. And by dropped I mean drop kicked my guy King Kong in a manner that probably did not make his or any of the attendant cast and crew too happy. I immediately issued a sincere and confident Stand By Your Man memo to my ticket buyers (okay friends) assuring them that they would appreciate their time at this show with my guy King Kong. But as time passed my confidence did start to dissipate. Not completely, but some self-doubt drifted into my psyche, not one bit ameliorated by my family who thought my affection for this show was perhaps misguided.
The big day where 80 of us gathered to see King Kong on Broadway was this past Sunday. Deep breathing and some inward pep talks got me to my seat. But the second I saw those “my what big teeth you have” looming at the top of the stage with his accompanying reverberating roar – I knew I was good. Thank you King Kong and your superhero voodoo operators and contorting King’s Company that enable you to emote so successfully and move so believably. You nimbly hijacked every scene where you are visible and/or audible. I want to go back and sit in the third row just to experience the part in scene 2 where King Kong looms over the audience unwittingly savoring his final moments of freedom, from shackles and from his assailants.
To learn more about the voodoo operators, we were fortunate to gather as a group for a talkback with some of the cast and crew. The voodoo operators do their thing in a little closet at the back of the audience working as a trifecta to operate King Kong’s oh so moving facial expressions, the tilt of his head and neck (using visual cues like a pout or a cold shoulder I recognized in my dogs and children), and his powerful voice which is conveyed by a microphone by a guy standing next to the face and neck person. If you want to learn more about this team read this detailed article in The New Yorker.
The result? King Kong is acting. He is not recorded. What? His interpretation at each show is slightly different – much like the actors, he is joined with on stage because his performance via the voodoo operators is LIVE which make him, in fact, ALIVE for the audience. And that is just his head! To get him to move and jump and climb and get sleepy or raise his large paw in anger or defense requires 14 athletic, acrobatic and artistic puppeteers working in tandem to move this glorious beast. This Cirque du Soleil quality crew goes all out – jumping, climbing, contorting and balancing to ensure King Kong carries his weight in each performance. Given that his weight is some 2,000 pounds they have a supersize responsibility.
There is a reason we go see live theater and King Kong – the beast in action on stage – encapsulates so much of why we love it. A team of people solely dedicated to bringing an art form to life. Incredible and worth seeing. Promise!
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You may be wondering how did my group respond? With electric enthusiasm (thank goodness). At the talkback, I was super proud of my group who tossed out thoughtful and sincere questions – hands firing into the air as soon as the time for questions began. The tears streaming down the faces of my friends and family were also another clue. And the arm clutch of my daughter throughout the show was further evidence that this is a show that should be experienced. Here are just some of the missives I received on the back end of our viewing:
I loved every minute of it – thank you – I cried 6 times.
We went as a family to see King Kong on Broadway. I absolutely loved it. After the show (as a special treat) we were able to ask questions and hear all sorts of details about the one-ton mechanical masterpiece. I’ve always loved King Kong and this show did not disappoint.
The physicality and creativity of this show were insanely impressive. Kudos to the voodoo they do so well.
King Kong who knew!? – by far the best puppetry I have ever witnessed. I fell in LOVE with this beast.
It was amazing. Was sad when it ended and LOVED the show. Mesmerizing. I could have sat at the talkback for so long.
Okay… that’s just a sampling. The rest of the feedback was in smiles on the child and adult faces and the hugs and the thank yous as we made our way back out onto the streets of Manhattan. Grab your group and go see my guy King Kong on stage on Broadway. Please give him my regards. He is something to see and experience.
Go! Go! Go!