What: King Kong
Where: Regent Theatre, Melbourne
Tickets: From $75
FOR those who like to think of themselves as musical theatre connoisseurs, King Kong is probably not going to impress.
The theatre event, currently being staged at the majestic Regent Theatre in Melbourne, is not exactly what one would expect of a typical musical.
But for those who take an interest in state-of-the-art puppetry and special effects, King Kong will leave them speechless.
Set in 1930s New York, King Kong is a timeless love story which explores the absurd relationship between a collosal gorilla and the vaudeville actress Ann Darrow.
Ever since the original 1933 stop-motion animation, the story has been renowned for its use of ground-breaking special effects and this particular instance is no different.
The plot itself was nothing to gloat about, and the ending didn't provide the audience with a sense of closure, but this, of course, could not be helped.
In terms of the production's musical merits, there wasn't much that was too memorable. When I left the theatre, I didn't find myself humming any of the musical numbers, and when I woke up the next morning I couldn't remember any of the songs bar one - Full Moon Lullaby performed by Esther Hannaford who played the leading role of Ann.
Hannaford had such a spectacular voice that it would have been nice showcase it further. Unfortunately, she had to work with the material she was given and in that respect, she was incredible.
That being said, the performance as a whole, the glitz, glam and precise movement, the special effects, the costumes, the sets, the powerful sounds and the puppetry, outweighed any mediocrity that was apparent musical wise.
Sitting through the first act, the entire audience was eagerly awaiting the moment when Kong would have his debut. Suffice to say, the first sighting (albeit of his head alone with the rest of his body in shadow) had me on the edge of my seat.
The primate himself weighs 1.1 tonnes and is six metres tall, so you can only imagine the expertise required to bring him to life.
With a team of 10 men on stage doing direct manipulation and three off-stage operating voodoo controls, the puppetry is no less than remarkable.
Additionally, the detail of Kong's facial expressions was delivered by 15 industrial servo motors, ensuring that Kong's every emotion was well understood. Whether he was angry, scared, sad or in love, the audience knew.
The puppet work, combined with the set's 27-metre LED screen and lighting effects made for the event we had all been anticipating for months. An extra special kudos goes to the show's 20+ creative team. Let's be honest, if it weren't for them, the show wouldn't be.
So while the musical numbers may not be as memorable as those in the traditional Broadway musicals, there is no reason why everyone shouldn't witness this ground-breaking production. It was always going to be about Kong himself after all, and in this regard, it didn't disappoint. It's an eight out of 10 from me.