“King Kong” is roaring to life on Broadway and it takes a village to get the 20-foot high, 2,000-pound ape in action on stage.
The giant soulful star of the musical that starts previews Oct. 5 can crumble to the ground in exhaustion, soar towards the ceiling, and express everything from rage to sorrow thanks to a mix of animatronics, robotics and puppetry.
“To put a character into the lead position in a musical who can’t sing and can’t speak and can’t dance is probably a crazy idea,” producer Carmen Pavlovic said at a sneak peek at rehearsal Thursday evening. “And it’s taken us a while to kind of think about what’s the language of his storytelling, how does he communicate, how does he help us understand him and show us his range of emotions.”
To do that, the muscles in the robot are configured the same as a human face.
“Operating joysticks send a signal to the various motors in Kong’s face and his shoulders,” Pavlovic said. “So that signals a full range of emotions” from surprise to delight and joy.
King Kong’s voice is done live in-house and filtered through a mic that alters it to be more beast-like.
And an onstage team of puppeteers — who also have other acting roles in the show — help the gargantuan gorilla move.
That’s not the only issue solved in the show based on the original 1933 film of the same name that opens Nov. 8 at the Broadway Theatre.
Pavlovic said it was important to the creators to update the female protagonist Ann Darrow, who will be played by Christiani Pitts (“A Bronx Tale”) on Broadway.