I saw King Kong the musical at The Broadway Theatre in NYC this past week. As I have said before, I don’t write reviews. “Un-Block The Music’s” purpose is to encourage people to go to the theater, and as a music journalist and someone just passionate about music, I want people to buy and listen to soundtracks.
The story here…is that I sat in the 9th row of The Broadway Theatre, and I pretty much sat there with my mouth open for 2 plus hours. If I told my theater loving mom 20 years ago that this show would exist on Broadway, she never would have believed it. A 20-foot animatronic gorilla with such expressive eyes…he just warms your heart. The issue here is that I would love to offer up anecdotes and stories about what it is like to work with Kong from the beautiful Christiani Pitts and the always amazing Eric William Morris. HOWEVER, “Un-Block the Music” is about..well…the music. If you want to read a great story about the puppet, I suggest: https://www.syfy.com/king-kong-broadway-puppet-built.
In any case, the first version of the King Kong musical was produced five years ago in Australia. Then came years of development and reworking of the show. It is now a new book and script by Harry Potter and the Cursed Child writer Jack Thorne. The songs are written by Eddie Perfect who is on a roll. In addition to King Kong, he also has written the songs for Beetlejuice which is in development in Washington, D.C. and scheduled to hit Broadway next fall.
Eddie has had success in Australia as a singer-songwriter, comedian, and cabaret performer, but is said to have had no formal training in composition. As the story goes, Eddie reportedly felt he did not fit into the musicals being written. He felt, that it was time to create his own shows. I call it the Sylvester Stallone School of Success. If you want to succeed in entertainment, sometimes you just have to do it all yourself. If you are not familiar with Sylvester’s tale of getting Rocky to the big screen, google it!
Like Sylvester, Eddie created Shane Warne: The Musical. Not only did he write the entire show, but he also served as its musical director, arranger, orchestrator, and even helped cast the show. That would be impossible to do with a show like King Kong, so, Eddie collaborated. He took on the Kong challenge when director-choreographer Drew McOnie, book writer Jack Thorne, and music producer and composer Marius de Vries, were called upon to pitch their own version of the show after it initially opened in Australia. (Marius de Vries, by the way, was Music Director and Music Producer for La La Land.)
While the setting for King Kong seems to be the 1930s as the original film was, the music is current day. It reminded me of the generational mix in the recent Leonardo DiCaprio version of The Great Gatsby, which took place in the 1920s but was set to Jay-Z’s music; interesting approach, grabbing older and younger audiences. I felt that Kong’s songs stood on their own, and could be recorded outside of the musical; another trend in musical theater these days. Christiani (who also played Jane in The Bronx Tale” recently), left her mark at the end of the show with the song, “The Wonder” which brought the whole show’s story together; themes of theoretically being caged in a life you don’t want, and, of course feminism. Christiani’s character’s the meek Ann Darrow as was portrayed by Fay Wray so many years ago.
Whether or not this show reaches Tony heights, I hope that the show catapults Eric William Morris to the height on Broadway where he should be. As an original member of the current stage sensation, Be More Chill, Eric is a top-notch actor and singer, and he can even dance. You never hear people talk about guys being triple threats, but Eric goes beyond that. He is also an accomplished musician. Check out “Un-Block The Music’s” archives.
Before I sign off, I just want to congratulate some of the non-music people associated with the show. A shout out goes to Global Creatures, the international touring theater company that specializes in shows featuring animatronic animals. I also want to give kudos to the actual creature designer, Sonny Tilders, the scenic and projection designer Peter England, the lighting designer, Peter Mumford and the sound designer Peter Hylenski.
“Un-Block The Music” has been in touch with Eddie Perfect’s U.S. and Australian representatives, fingers crossed, I will be able to profile him in the near future.