10 Worst Theater Productions of 2018, From Jimmy Buffet to ‘King Kong’ (Photos)

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10. “Pretty Woman,” by Bryan Adams, Jim Vallance, J.F. Lawton, and Garry Marshall (Broadway) Sometimes it’s possible to be way too faithful to your source material, in this case, Julia Roberts’s pro-prostitution movie fantasy.

‘King Kong’s Leading Man: Broadway’s Eric William Morris Talks Growling Apes, Snarling Critics & Life As A Squip

Read on: Deadline.

When Broadway’s King Kong opened earlier this month, critics did their best to one-up Beauty on how to kill a Beast. Big, hairy gloom might have settled over the cast following the show’s Nov. 8 opening, particularly after the publication o…

‘Network’ Previews, ‘King Kong’ Opens As Broadway Scores $37M

Read on: Deadline.

Bryan Cranston arrived on Broadway to two full houses last week, as the much-anticipated Network played a couple previews at the Belasco Theater and contributed $293,220 to Broadway’s $37,230,401 total for Week 24 (ending Nov. 11).
Overall box of…

‘King Kong’ Broadway Review: Giant Puppet Upstages the Mere Humans

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The big ape deserves a Tony. He’s not only the star of “King Kong,” which opened Thursday at the Broadway Theatre. He’s also a damned good actor, too — one who shows a wide range of emotion while running through the jungle, fighting off a giant serpent, being gassed by crass capitalists or climbing up the Empire State Building.

That he’s a puppet only makes his performance all the more riveting. But he/it has an advantage over the human actors on stage. Kong doesn’t sing one song composed by Eddie Perfect or utter one word written by Jack Thorne.

Before we get to the technical wonder that is this puppet named Kong, let’s look at Thorne’s rollercoaster career on Broadway in the last few months. Back in June, his “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” won the Tony Award for Best Play. This November, he gives us arguably the worst book of any musical currently on Broadway. In comparison, Kong’s fall from the Empire State Building looks like a mere stubbing of the big toe.

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Perhaps Thorne and his producers found the original 1933 film a teensy sexist and racist? So how have they fixed that? Ann Darrow (Christiani Pitts), the erstwhile damsel in distress,  no longer has a human love interest, Bruce Cabot, to get in her way.

Nor is there a hostile tribe on Skull Island to greet her and the film crew led by bad-guy showman Carl Denham (Eric William Morris). Instead, they have to fight off killer vines in the jungle. And since there is no hostile tribe, there is no wall to prevent Kong from abducting Ann or taking a whiz in the nearby sea.

And since there is no Bruce Cabot to rescue her, Darrow sings Kong a lullaby to put him to sleep while she escapes to make her way back to the ship, which is a pretty easy trek since there’s no wall to climb over anymore and all the killer vines have been cut down. Missing most here is Kong’s relation to the Bruce Cabot character. In the movie, he’s driven by jealousy. On Broadway, Kong’s just horny.

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The Disney princess has a lot to answer for here. We have watched this smart, spunky, athletic, defiant, feisty and independent female character evolve over the years. Although the House of Mouse has nothing to do with “King Kong,” the new version of Ann Darrow perfectly crystallizes what all those previous princesses have been aspiring to: She doesn’t need or even want a love interest — at least, not a human one. She is totally self-sufficient. She can do it on her own.

In fact, Ann Darrow not only saves her own life in the jungle, she singlehandedly stops a mutiny on the ship that’s taking her and Denham to Skull Island. I’d like to explain how she squashes this uprising, since the spirited Darrow is surrounded by a dozen armed sailors and she’s holding a curling iron, but I can’t. The scene is a baffling mess, and I no longer feel stupid for having found much of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” incomprehensible.

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In the second act of “King Kong,” Denham gets fed up with his Ann when she refuses to scream on cue at the appearance of Kong in the Broadway stage show he’s directing. But since she really didn’t act afraid back on Skull Island, why would she scream now? It had always been love at first sight for Ann and the ape. But isn’t “King Kong,” first and foremost, a tale of terror? And without terror, “King Kong” quickly turns into “Curious George” — only bigger.

Eddie Perfect has provided a few female-empowerment anthems, lifted from the “Defying Gravity” school of musical songwriting. These are the songs that compel many theatergoers to break into applause before Pitts has finished singing. Is this applause to signal that we can still hear or, better yet, that we can no longer hear the banal lyrics? Perfect is big on the percussive.

These songs are supplemented with a score by Marius de Vries that fortunately offers no words but does set the mood in a very ponderous action-movie sort of way. The musical interludes have been given titles: “The Ascent,” “The Descent,” “Kong’s Capture,” “NYC Chase,” “Empire Ascent,” and “Air War,” which offer in specificity what Perfect’s lyrics lack in originality.

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Pitts and Morris have no characters to explore, so they can’t be blamed for acting merely energetic (her) or determined (him). The two lead characters, however, are spared the whiplash changes in personality that afflict the crewman played by Eric Lochtefeld. He’s called Lumpy. Like de Vries with his music titles, Thorne gets right to the point with his choice of names.

Initially stupid and clumsy, Lumpy soon comes to represent all that is good in the world when he convinces Darrow to turn on Denham and punch him out — to much applause from the theatergoers who can still hear dialogue being spoken.

“King Kong” is the third Broadway musical this year, after “Escape to Margaritaville” and “Frozen,” to advocate that the heroine settle her differences with a man through physical violence. The one good thing we can say about Darrow is that she, unlike her two Broadway sisters, doesn’t actually deliver on such misandric advice.

Also Read: ‘Days of Rage’ Theater Review: This Revolution Won’t Be Televised

But back to the super-puppet. As designed by Sonny Tilders, Kong is a genuine marvel that requires no fewer than 10 people to operate its limbs, torso and, most amazingly, facial features. The whole contraption is humongous but always agile, and whenever the story line lags, which is most of the time, your attention goes to those 10 puppeteers whose task often takes them up Kong’s back to attach hooks and wires and then rappel to the stage floor. No zoo offers a show this thrilling.

While Pitts and Morris are often stranded on stage with weak material, Kong never operates in a void. Enhancing all his chases and escapes is the inspired work of Peter England (scenic and projection design), Peter Mumford (lighting), Peter Hylenski (sound), Gavin Robins (aerial movement) and Artists in Motion (video and projection imaging content).

There is also the director-choreographer, Drew McOnie. He can’t do much with the book scenes or the songs, but his very athletic choreography often provides stunning segues. And he sure knows how to serve up a real star.

Related stories from TheWrap:

‘Eve’s Song’ Theater Review: Are You Woke Enough for Patricia Ione Lloyd’s Dark Comedy?

‘American Son’ Theater Review: Kerry Washington Brings #BlackLivesMatter Debate to Broadway

‘Torch Song’ Theater Review: Harvey Fierstein Passes It to Michael Urie

‘Good Grief’ Theater Review: Ngozi Anyanwu Looks Back With Love and Hip-Hop

Broadway’s $35 Million ‘King Kong’ Roars When It Roars, Slips When It Sings: Review

Read on: Deadline.

Eighth wonder of the world? King Kong probably isn’t even the eighth wonder of Broadway – those kids in The Ferryman aren’t giving up their spots anytime soon – but the big ape does provide some roaring good thrills.
Picking ove…

Broadway Box Office Slips To $33M; Mike Birbiglia’s ‘New One’ & Musical ‘The Prom’ Join Fall Roster

Read on: Deadline.

Two new productions – Mike Birbiglia’s The New One and musical The Prom – joined the Broadway roster but couldn’t keep overall box office from slipping: Grosses for Broadway’s Week 22 (ending Oct. 28) were down about 4% to…

Broadway Box Office Rings Up $34M; ‘The Ferryman’, ‘Lifespan Of A Fact’ Get Warm Welcomes

Read on: Deadline.

Broadway box office continued apace as fall settled on the theater district, with a raft of recent arrivals helping to push grosses up a slight 3% over last week to $34,344,693. Attendance for Broadway’s Week 21 (ending Oct. 21) was up from the p…

Broadway Box Office Holds Steady At $33M; ‘Torch Song’ Joins Roster

Read on: Deadline.

Broadway box office held steady as the fall season settled in, with a batch of recently arriving productions joined by Torch Song, last year’s Off Broadway hit taking up a limited engagement at Broadway’s Hayes Theatre. In all, the 33 shows…

‘King Kong’, ‘The Ferryman’, ‘American Son’ Help Boost Broadway B.O. To $33M

Read on: Deadline.

Three of the most anticipated Broadway productions of the fall season – King Kong, The Ferryman and American Son – began previews last week, helping to boost total box office by 13% over the previous week to $33,381,111.
Total attendance fo…

Richard H. Kline Dies: Academy Award-Nominated ‘Camelot’ And ‘King Kong’ Cinematographer Was 91

Read on: Deadline.

Known for his work in a wide array of film genres, Academy Award-nominated cinematographer Richard H. Kline died Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 91.
Kline was known for his work for the 1967 movie musical Camelot starring Vanessa Redgrave and Richard Ha…

Broadway’s ‘King Kong’ Casts 1st Humans: Christiani Pitts, Eric William Morris

Read on: Deadline.

Christiani Pitts, currently starring in A Bronx Tale on Broadway, will star as Ann Darrow, and Eric William Morris, who played Sky in Mamma Mia!, will play Carl Denham in next season’s Broadway musical King Kong.
The first principal casting for t…

Broadway’s ‘King Kong’ Sets Opening Date

Read on: Deadline.

King Kong will hit the stage at the Broadway Theatre for previews on Friday, October 5, 2018, with an official opening on November 8, producers Carmen Pavlovic (Global Creatures) and Roy Furman announced today.
Written by Jack Thorne with a score by Marius de Vries and songs by Eddie Perfect, King Kong is directed by Drew McOnie. The production uses a mix of robotics, puppetry and stagecraft to bring the beast alive.
The stage production of King Kong follows a young…

‘Pacific Rim 2’ Director Teases Future Crossover With King Kong, Godzilla Franchise

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Judging by its trailers, the “Pacific Rim” sequel looks amazing, with “Force Awakens” star John Boyega joining as the new lead — but fans might already have a reason to look forward to the franchise’s films down the line.

With “Pacific Rim: Uprising” coming out next March, director Steven S. DeKnight shared with Collider that the movie might be followed up with a full-on crossover with King Kong and Godzilla joining in on the action.

“I won’t say there’s an Easter Egg but there’s been a lot of discussion about that possibility [of crossing over],” DeKnight told Collider. “Look I think it would be fantastic to have the ‘Pacific Rim’ universe join Legendary’s Monster Universe, it seems like a natural step. And part of the big overall plan after the third movie we’ve talked about is that could happen, it’s always a possibility. It’s by far not a certainty; it’s merely theoretical at this point, but as a fan myself I would love to see that happen.”

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There’s certainly smoke where there’s fire, in this case. Legendary already has “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” scheduled for March 2019 and “Godzilla vs. Kong” set to launch in 2020. And fanboys should keep their eyes peeled, because DeKnight hinted to Collider there could be crossover signs in “Uprising.”

“Oh we definitely leave it open to another installment,” said DeKnight. “The tricky thing with something like this is you want to not end on a cliffhanger. You don’t want an ‘Empire Strikes Back’ cliffhanger unless you know you’re gonna do a third movie — you want to leave it open but also wrap it up. So that’s very much what we did on this movie. It has a definitive ending but very much open to the next chapter.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

‘Pacific Rim: Uprising’ First Trailer Sees John Boyega Battle Amphibious Creatures, Giant Robots (Video)

‘Pacific Rim: Uprising’ Teaser: First Peek at John Boyega in Action (Video)

‘Pacific Rim’ Sequel: Scott Eastwood Is in Talks for Key Role

‘King Kong’ Swings Into Shubert’s Broadway Theatre In Fall 2018

Read on: Deadline.

King Kong will take the New York stage next year, hitting the Shubert Organizations’s Broadway Theatre in the fall of 2018. Producers Global Creatures and Roy Furman announced the booking today, and said casting, opening date and ticketing details will be set in the coming months.
The big ape will arrive at the Shubert following the limited engagement of Miss Saigon, which will begin its North American tour in September 2018.
King Kong was written by Jack Thorne, who…