By THE ENTHUSIAST
One Great Primate
Alright, let’s get this out of the way up front – Kong truly is an amazing ape. You can picture the Kong creative team ambling over to Sardi’s after watching Julie Taymor’s Lion King and saying to themselves, hey, what if we smashed all of those animals together to make one unbelievably gigantic Master of Puppets? And, 35 million dollars later, it happened.
Director Drew McOnie also choreographed the show, and he’s a dab hand with the hoofers. The last thing you expect as you settle into your seat to see a multi-story monkey is an artful series of dance sequences that pay homage to a passel of different eras and genres, but that’s what you get. And given that Kong’s offstage for long stretches of time, that’s a profound plus.
Eric William Morris & Christiani Pitts
The oft-repeated admonition not to perform with animals or kids has never been more apt than it is here. It’s tough to be the two non-simian leads when 1,700 people are waiting impatiently for more quality ape time, but Eric William Morris (dashing, with unerring derring-do) and Christiani Pitts (plucky and pleasingly purposeful) make the Kong-less stretches sing. Often, though not always, literally.
The Broadway Theatre
Kong isn’t the first crowd-pleasing critter to debut at the Broadway Theatre – Mickey Mouse made his first appearance there in Steamboat Willie back in 1928. But the Broadway has booked more than its share of dogs in the 90 years between the mouse and the monkey. It’s good to see ’em packing in the punters.
Requiem For A Heavyweight
When you see Kong fall from the Empire State building and die on Fifth Avenue, you’re going to cry – even though you clearly see a gaggle of puppeteers rolling back his head and closing his eyes. That’s an accomplishment. And it more than merits the special Tony bestowed on this beauty of a beast.
The Enthusiast (email@example.com) is the pen name of critic Michael Collins. He reports back only on what’s good, never what’s bad. But what he declines to praise can speak volumes.