PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Sept. 11-17: King Kong, Queen Priscilla and Sondheim's Tear

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Sept. 11-17: King Kong, Queen Priscilla and Sondheim's Tear You'd think the object lesson of Spider-man Turn Off the Dark would have been scaring producers off fantastical musicals that demand intense special effects to tell their story. But here comes King Kong—Live on Stage, which is, you know, a show about King Kong, live on stage. And it's coming to Broadway in 2013.

A King Kong model image from Global Creatures
A King Kong model image from Global Creatures Photo by Simon Schluter

An Australian production company called Global Creatures (funny) is behind the project. The show will feature a score by Marius de Vries and a book by (!) Craig Lucas, the serious-minded and respected American playwright who would seem to be in very unlikely territory here. Daniel Kramer will direct.

The production will boast a cast of more than 40 onstage actors, singers, dancers and puppeteers. The design team is impressive as well, but my favorite member is Sonny Tilders who is credited with "creature design." That would be the ape, I should imagine, and maybe a dinosaur or two. Global Creatures has come up with a design for a robotic Kong.

Carmen Pavlovic, chief executive of Global Creatures, said in a statement, "At its heart, King Kong is a love story which is why we have chosen the more intimate space of a proscenium theatre to tell this epic tale. We want to immerse the audience in the emotional journey of the book and music as much as the spectacle of our pioneering animatronics and puppetry."

The musical has been authorized by the estate Merian C. Cooper, the co-director of the 1933 "King Kong" film.

*** Broadway's booking some outlandish things of late, at least some of them of Australian origin.

The Palace Theatre
photo by Matthew Blank

Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical has found a home in New York. Befitting the title of the piece, it's the Palace Theatre. Where else would the Queen of the Desert stay but a palace? The show — about a trio of friends who hop aboard a battered old bus searching for love and friendship in the middle of the Australian outback — will begin on Broadway starting Feb. 28, 2011. West Side Story will exit the famed venue in early January.

The musical will have its North American debut this fall at The Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto; that 12-week engagement begins Oct. 12. It is already popular in London and Australia, where it had its world premiere in Sydney in 2006. The score includes disco dance-floor favorites.

***

Broadway was given a chance last season to fall in love again with Promises, Promises, one of the big hits of the 1960s. But it remained unmoved. And so the show, starring Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth, will close Jan. 2, 2011, at the Broadway Theatre.

Hayes and Chenoweth, who were announced to depart the production Dec. 26, have extended their contracts through the end of the run. Original cast members Tony Goldwyn and Dick Latessa, as well as Molly Shannon, who will replace Tony winner Katie Finneran in October, will also perform through the closing performance.

The musical will have played 30 previews and 291 regular performances when it closes.

***

Broadway made Stephen Sondheim cry this week, instead of the other way around. (His musicals aren't exactly feel-good affairs.)

A choked-up Sondheim stood on a dais under the new marquee of Broadway's freshly named Stephen Sondheim Theatre the evening of Sept. 15 and thanked those who made the honor of the naming possible.

"I cry easy," the 80-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner said, holding back tears.

A crowd of perhaps 400 watched as the Tony Award-winning composer-lyricist flipped a switch that illuminated a white-light sign representing his signature on the marquee of the former Henry Miller's Theatre, a venue now under a long lease by the Roundabout Theatre Company. Among the onlookers were director Harold Prince, director Mike Nichols, longtime pal Mary Rodgers Guettel, librettist John Weidman and performers Patti LuPone and Nathan Lane.

Lane quipped that he was glad that a person was on the marquee, "as opposed to the British Petroleum Playhouse or the McNugget." Or American Airlines, the name of that other Roundabout theatre.

Stephen Sondheim was honored with the unveiling of his namesake theatre.  The former Henry Miller's Theatre was officially unveiled as the Stephen Sondheim Theatre with a Sept. 15 ceremony.
Stephen Sondheim was honored with the unveiling of his namesake theatre. The former Henry Miller's Theatre was officially unveiled as the Stephen Sondheim Theatre with a Sept. 15 ceremony. Joseph Marzullo/WENN
Today’s Most Popular News: