King Kong Announces Final Melbourne Extension; Northern Hemisphere Dates Are Next
By Adam Hetrick
Producers of the Australian stage spectacle King Kong, which premiered in Melbourne last summer at the Regent Theatre, have announced that the production must close Feb. 16, 2014. Plans are underway for the musical to conquer the northern hemisphere next.
The latest booking marks the final extension for the musical that began previews May 28 and officially opened June 15. Tickets for the latest extension go on sale Nov. 23.
"We have been humbled by the way audiences have embraced King Kong, and the success of the global premiere season is testament to Australia’s ability to create locally and to play globally," said Carmen Pavlovic, CEO of Global Creatures, in a statement. "Like the Dinosaurs and Dragons before him, Kong is set to take on the world and we look forward to being able to confirm our northern hemisphere season in the near future. However our immediate focus is on making sure every performance in the final 13 weeks of our Australian season continues to leave people amazed."
Producer Pavlovic previously told the New York Times that she anticipates launching a second production of King Kong in 2014, with a third to follow in 2015. It could possibly arrive on Broadway next year. Additional cities such as London, Seoul, Japan, Germany and Holland are also potential markets for the pop musical.
Pavlovic and members of the King Kong creative team were in New York recently to identify potential Broadway theatres capable of housing the large-scale production. Only four or five Broadway houses are large enough to accommodate the high-tech production that stars a six-meter-tall puppet as Kong. A team of 35 on-stage and off-stage puppeteers are employed to manipulate the creature. The creative team is already at work in Melbourne constructing a second animatronic puppet for a future production of the musical.
King Kong won five of Australia's Helpmann Awards this year, including Best Lighting, Best Sound, Best Scenic Design, Best Costume Design and Outstanding Theatrical Achievement.
The new musical features a book by Tony Award nominee Craig Lucas (Marry Me A Little, The Light in the Piazza), who also contributed lyrics. Composer and arranger Marius de Vries, whose credits include the soundtracks for "Moulin Rouge" and "Romeo + Juliet," created and oversees a score that features 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 new and existing songs from a mix of contemporary artists: Robert Del Naja from Massive Attack, Sarah McLachlan, Justice, Guy Garvey from Elbow and The Avalanches. A key collaborator on the musical landscape for the show is Stephen Pavlovic from Modular People; Michael Mitnick has contributed lyrics to several new compositions.
The cast features Australian actors Esther Hannaford (Hairspray) as Ann Darrow, newcomer Adam Lyon as Carl Denham, Chris Ryan (Thyestes) as Jack Driscoll, veteran stage actor Richard Piper as Captain Engelhorn and musical theatre and cabaret star Queenie van de Zandt as Cassandra. King Kong boasts the largest puppet ever created as its central star.
The musical, according to press notes, "has gone back to the source – the novella of the original film by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace – in this world-first adaptation as a large-scale musical. Featuring a cast of 49 actors, singers, dancers, circus performers and puppeteers; a crew of 76; and arguably the most technologically advanced puppet in the world - a one-tonne, six-metre giant silverback - King Kong will be an epic and dazzlingly original theatrical experience."
The character of King Kong, according to producers, is "an imposing, stylised silverback of exaggerated proportions...a highly sophisticated animatronic/marionette hybrid that will be controlled by the integration of hydraulics, automation and the manual manipulation from a team of puppeteer/aerialists (The King’s Men) on stage, and off."
The creative team also includes choreographer John O’Connell, production designer Peter England, creature designer Sonny Tilders, Tony Award-winning costume designer Roger Kirk, lighting designer Peter Mumford, Grammy, Tony and Olivier Award-nominated sound designer Peter Hylenski, Green Room Award-winning projection designer Frieder Weiss, aerial and circus director Gavin Robins and puppetry director Peter Wilson.
King Kong is authorized by the Merian C. Cooper Estate. Global Creatures produces.
For more information go to kingkongliveonstage.com.
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