The panned Australian musical will have a major rewrite, but retains its award-winning production design.
Australia has welcomed a host of imported blockbusting musicals in recent years, from Les Misérables, to Wicked, Tim Minchin’s smash-hit Matilda, and in the coming months Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hugely popular festival of felines, Cats. However now Australia is set to export some home-grown musical theatre to one of the most hallowed homes of art form, New York’s Broadway, although given the mixed reviews of the original 2013 production some may question whether Marius de Vries and Craig Lucas’ King Kong is really the show we want waving the Aussie flag overseas.
Premiered in June 2013 at the Regent Theatre in Melbourne, the production is a faithful adaptation of the iconic 1933 film which starred Hollywood darling Fay Wray as the beauty who tamed the beast, Ann Darrow. The songs and book were largely panned in the critical press although the show’s many technical triumphs, including an astonishing six-meter tall, 1-tonne gorilla puppet, created by Global Creatures, earned King Kong five Helpmann Awards, including Best Scenic Design and Outstanding Theatrical Achievement for the creation and operation of the King Kong character.
The conspicuous faults with the original seem to have been addressed ahead of King Kong’s transfer to Broadway with the announcement of a new composer, Jason Robert Brown, who won a coveted Tony Award for his adaptation of The Bridges of Madison County. It is not yet known how much of the original will be retained in this redeveloped iteration, but Marius de Vries will work in collaboration with Brown to prepare the show for New York. The production’s book will also receive a facelift, courtesy of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marsha Norman, who collaborated with Brown on The Bridges of Madison County.
Actor-director Eric Schaeffer has also been brought on board, and will lead a development workshop for the musical later this year in New York. King Kong’s birth in Australia may have left some unimpressed, but with such a glittering collective of creatives working on this revival, this Australian musical’s New York debut looks set to be an export we can be proud of. Expect cast and season dates to be released towards the end of this year.