Review: ‘King Kong’ Is the Mess That Roared


GREEN Mr. McOnie certainly had them working frantically. During the musical numbers, which feel relentless, the ensemble comes off as a troupe of overstimulated mimes playing charades. But here’s my question for you: Was there anything, aside from Kong’s two or three expressions, you actually enjoyed?

BRANTLEY Not really. I kept hoping a higher camp factor might kick in. When poor Ann is taken to Kong’s lair, and makes quips about his housekeeping and bachelor ways, I longed for the reincarnation of Madeline Kahn, who made such blissful hay out of similar material in “Young Frankenstein.”

GREEN The camp here is all accidental. The Skull Island jungle looks like green spaghetti with phlegm balls. (The scenic and projection designer is Peter England.) But the oppressiveness of the music and the over-intensity of the staging never allow you to laugh at, and therefore enjoy, the ludicrousness of the story.

BRANTLEY Agreed. By the way, if you look at accounts of the Australian incarnation of five years ago, which had a book by Craig Lucas, it featured several more characters, including a love interest for Ann. In this version, there are effectively three central human characters: the agency-seeking Ann; the chauvinist, bad-mogul Carl; and (oh, dear) his put-upon, slow-witted, golden-hearted assistant, Lumpy (Erik Lochtefeld).

GREEN The bevy of previous authors discarded in the course of the musical’s development dodged a bullet here. But Mr. Lochtefeld actually manages to give a sincere and human-scale performance, even if most of what he has to say is maudlin hogwash.

BRANTLEY Yes, even the screams lacked eloquence. Fay Wray, the star of the original, is best remembered for her earsplitting howls of terror when she’s in the big guy’s clutches. But our intrepid Ann is incapable of screaming in fear. Instead, she roars, and that’s what attracts her soul mate Kong to her. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear a lot of Katy Perry power in Ms. Pitts’s scream.

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