Review: King Kong, starring Christiani Pitts and Eric William Morris
In the larger than life musical, King Kong, the audience gasps and cheers as the titular character appears on Skull Island for the first time. A marvel to behold, the puppet and the people who operate it on stage, are the third star of the spectacle that is now playing at the Broadway Theatre.
After a production in Australia several years ago, King Kong has found its way to Broadway. With a book by Tony-winner Jack Thorne, scenic design by England, music by Marius de Vries and Eddie Perfect, choreography by Ellenore Scott and Drew McOnie (who also directs), plus a story that is almost universally known, it seems like the perfect package to come to the stage. However, despite the best efforts of the talented cast and crew, you leave most impressed by Kong himself.
Perfect and de Vries' score breaks all boundaries, not adhering to the setting of 1931 New York City, rather a compilation of pop rock, ballads, and orchestral music. Standouts include "Prolouge", "Queen of New York", "Pressure Up", "Full Moon Lullaby", and "Free". Thorne's book is good, but pales in comparison to the music, as the story is not pulled together and has a rather abrupt ending.
England's scenic design and projections are an absolute marvel, while Scott and McOnie's choreography is flawlessly utilized to flow from one scene to another. As leads Ann Darrow and Carl Denham, Christiani Pitts and Eric William Morris have a lovely energy between them, and play off each other very well, accompanied by a stellar ensemble. Pitts' performance will no doubt be a launching point to stardom, while Morris has established himself as a a perfect antagonist.
While King Kong has its moments, it is truly a spectacle. And while it's one that fills the stage, it falls flat in some places. In a very ironic turn of events, the biggest draw of the production is Kong himself, despite Anna Darrow fighting to keep him from being put on show in New York.