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Perfecting King Kong

Performing Arts Editor

Helpmann Award winner Eddie Perfect joins the creative team of long-gestating musical King Kong for its 2018 Broadway premiere.
Perfecting King Kong

Esther Hannaford as Ann Darrow in the original Melbourne production of King Kong. Photo by Jeff Busby.

First staged in Melbourne in July 2013, the musical production King Kong – based on the 1933 film of the same name and featuring a giant animatronic puppet in the title role – has secured a new creative team in the lead-up to its Broadway premiere in 2018.

Melbourne-based songwriter, actor and composer Eddie Perfect (winner of the Helpmann Award for best new Australian work in 2009 for Shane Warne the Musical) will contribute new songs to the production.

Other new creatives now attached to King Kong include London director-choreographer Drew McOnie (responsible for the revised UK stage production of Strictly Ballroom which opened in 2016) and playwright Jack Thorne, who co-wrote the smash hit stage production Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

The US season of King Kong will be produced by Global Creatures (its original producers, responsible for such arena spectaculars as Walking with Dinosaurs and How to Train Your Dragon) and Broadway regular Roy Furman. The musical will open at the 1700-seater Broadway Theater in late 2018.

Opening to poor reviews in its Melbourne season – ArtsHub described it as ‘memorable as a spectacle, but not as theatre’, King Kong was originally slated to open in New York in 2014.

The musical's centrepiece is the giant ape, designed by puppeteer Sonny Tilders and brought to life by a team of pupeteers dubbed The King's Men. The puppet won a special Helpmann Award for Outstanding Theatrical Achievement in recognition of the unique design, creation and operation of King Kong – the creature.

The musical's US premiere has been delayed by ongoing creative struggles and a revolving door of writers and songwriters.

Last year, playwright, screenwriter and novelist Marsha Norman walked away from the production after several years’ involvement, saying ‘I’m no longer involved with King Kong in a creative capacity, because King Kong has moved toward the nonstandard musical arena. We exhausted the possibilities, I believe, of what I could do in writing a book where the main character doesn’t speak or sing.’

The latest creative appointments suggest that very little of the original book by Craig Lucas or songs by artists including composer Marius de Vries, Massive Attack’s 3D, Sarah McLachlan and The Avalanches will remain.

Exact season dates and cast details for the US premiere of King Kong have yet to be announced.

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