King Kong roars onto Melbourne stage

The face of the King Kong puppet is prepared for the Melbourne production of the King Kong musical.
The face of the King Kong puppet is prepared for the Melbourne production of the King Kong musical.

Is this for real? Surely the creators of King Kong could not have made the beast look so life-like, so charged with emotion?

That is the true triumph of this world-first stage production of the 1933 film, the classic story of beauty and the beast.

The show is high voltage stuff; a heady mix of dance, acrobatics and vocals. But the most gripping part of the performance is the emotion conveyed by the giant gorilla, through the intricate movement of his eyes, his facial contortions and interplay with heroine Ann.

The first time the audience sees Kong is a wow moment. The silverback is a six-metre high marionette, with animatronic facial muscles controlled remotely by puppeteers off-stage and directly manipulated by a team of on-stage black-clad acrobatic puppeteers.

Your eyes are drawn to the on-stage puppeteers at first, but as the story unfolds they fade into the background.

Esther Hannaford has great comic timing as Ann Darrow, particularly in her make-over I Wanna Be Loved By You scene. She also gives a convincing performance as she sings Full Moon Lullaby to the one-tonne Kong.

A mix of sound, lighting and costuming create sense of dread when Ann, along with Hollywood director Carl Denham and their crew, sail into Skull Island. There are parts of the show that are very loud and quite dark and may not be suitable for younger children.

The music is an eclectic mix of revamped 1930s standards, pop, electronic and classical numbers with contributions from Australian electronic collective The Avalanches and 3D from the UK's Massive Attack.

- AAP

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