Broadway stage being eyed for ‘King Kong’ musical by the folks behind ‘Walking With Dinosaurs’

By Mark Kennedy, AP
Wednesday, September 15, 2010

‘King Kong’ musical may make Broadway fans bananas

NEW YORK — A musical version of “King Kong” could be roaring onto a Broadway stage in a few years if its producers get their way.

Officials at Global Creatures, the Australian company behind the hit arena show “Walking With Dinosaurs,” are hoping their still-unfinished production of the classic ape story can find a theater on the Great White Way as early as 2013.

“Ultimately, whether there’s an out-of-town tryout somewhere or not, I just feel New York is the home for this story to be told,” Carmen Pavlovic, the CEO of Global Creatures, said by phone Wednesday. “It’s Broadway bound — there’s no doubt about that in my mind.”

She and her team have just finished a six-week workshop to ensure their 23-foot mechanical Kong can pull off a show. Next, they want to polish the script and score. Then, they want to begin casting. She said producers already have begun scouting out potential Broadway theaters big enough for the spectacle.

“If we put Kong in that very contained environment of a proscenium, we’ve got to make sure that in swiping his arms he doesn’t inadvertently knock over a cast member in the process,” Pavlovic said. “We had a lot to resolve before we did that.”

The project, in development for the past two years, will be directed by Daniel Kramer and written by Tony nominee Craig Lucas with new music by Grammy Award nominee Marius de Vries. It will feature a cast of more than 40 onstage actors, singers, dancers and puppeteers.

Producers, who gained the cooperation of the estate of “Kong” creator Merian C. Cooper, say they haven’t used recent “Kong” films as a reference, preferring instead to return to the Depression-era story that first appeared as a novella.

“It’s a very concise story and we haven’t seen or felt any need to vary that story dramatically. It’s a perfect story, it’s an iconic story,” Pavlovic said. “I think it just represents everything that’s fresh and wonderful about New York.”

Pavlovic said the script tries to tease out the love story between Kong and Ann Darrow. But she warned: “Kong does not pick up a microphone and serenade Ann. That much I promise you. Kong doesn’t sing but it’s a musical as we know it.”

Kong has long been an object of fascination in the American psyche. The ape story most recently reappeared in Peter Jackson’s 2005 hit remake with Naomi Watts, and is an amusement ride at Universal Studios in Hollywood. A 1976 film update with Jessica Lange received decidedly mixed reviews and substituted the Empire State Building with the World Trade Center as Kong’s climbing pole — something Pavlovic said producers of the musical will not permit.

“We’ve had to resolve how Kong climbs the Empire State Building and then how he falls off it,” she said. Of the creature himself, she added: “It’s a nice marriage between animatronics and live puppeteering.”

Global Creatures has had great success with its “Walking With Dinosaurs” arena show, which has toured the U.S., Canada and Mexico with its collection of 17 man-made creatures that look, move and sound like the real thing.

Unlike the dinos, though, the proposed Kong show will not be pitched as a children’s show. “I’m hoping for a traditional musical theatergoing audience,” Pavlovic said. But Broadway — and shaping the eventual show to one of its theater’s footprints — is the ultimate goal.

“If we can make it there, we’ll make it anywhere,” she said.


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