Exclusive: Jason Robert Brown and Marsha Norman Talk Humanizing King Kong for Broadway

News   Exclusive: Jason Robert Brown and Marsha Norman Talk Humanizing King Kong for Broadway Tony Award-winning collaborators Jason Robert Brown and Marsha Norman have been tasked with bringing a more immediate and human element to the Broadway-bound musical spectacle King Kong. The writers speak to Playbill.com about their take on the project.

King Kong
King Kong

The Australian mega-musical premiered in Melbourne in 2013. The original version was directed by Daniel Kramer and featured a book by Craig Lucas. Both have since moved on from the project.

The show's score is comprised of revamped versions of 1930s Broadway classics like "Get Happy," "I Wanna Be Loved By You" and "Brother Can You Spare a Dime," as well as contemporary additions from artists like Sarah McLachlan and The Avalanches.

For the Broadway incarnation that is now under the direction of Eric Schaeffer (Follies, Gigi, Million Dollar Quartet), King Kong is getting fresh character-driven musical material from Brown and Norman. The project reunites the composer with his Bridges of Madison County collaborator Norman, who will write both book and lyrics.

According to Brown, portions of the show's Australian score – created by Australian creative team member Marius de Vries ("Moulin Rouge" and "Romeo + Juliet") – will remain intact. "King Kong is a little bit different for me," he explained. "I'm primarily just there to write songs for the characters. There's a whole lot of music that already exists for King Kong that's really exciting, and the gorilla itself is really unbelievable."

The musical's centerpiece is a one-ton, six-meter-tall silverback gorilla, controlled by a group of puppeteers and aerialists who bring the massive puppet to life on stage.

"Full Moon Lullaby" (Esther Hannaford)
"Full Moon Lullaby" (Esther Hannaford) Photo by Jeff Busby

"What Marsha and I are there to do, really, is to give the humans some life, because I think they weren't particularly alive in the Australian version, which I've only seen on tape. It's a good task. It's a big task, and we're still in the middle of it. We're trying to make sure the show is not just about how great that big puppet is, but to make sure that all the people who surround it are the people you root for and care for."

When asked about how she has re-envisioned the show's book, Norman said, "Kong is the earth. If we kill it, we're dead. King Kong, for me, is about how we kill the things we don't understand. Ann Darrow understands him, and so her distress at the end is staggering. But the reason to tell Kong now is that we are continuing to kill things we don't understand, and one of them is the planet. The earth! To me, Kong is the earth. But if you ask Jason, he'll say Kong is the 'other.' You know, the pursued "other" that must be destroyed so that we can all be safe. There are a lot of reasons to tell Kong now."

The musical received a late October workshop in New York City. Tony-winning producer Roy Furman has joined Global Creatures' Carmen Pavlovic on the producing end.

A timeline for King Kong's Broadway arrival is not in place.

Here's a look at Kong in Australia:

 

 


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