It's the 1930's and a few years have passed since Carl Dunham, the fabled showman brought King Kong from the jungle to New York. Down on his luck, he is still peddling the memory of Kong in a third rate show about the mighty beast. No one wants to back it and does anyone actually want to see Denham's version of the tragic events? Still too fresh in the memory of New Yorkers - it would appear not. As Denham desperately tries to raise funds, his cast depart like rats from a sinking ship and his attempts to save the show become ever more desperate.
This is a new musical by Tony and Jonathan Leach and while new musical theatre writing should be applauded, I would caution against bringing a show that is so clearly a work in progress to The Fringe. There's a kernel of an idea here but it requires a lot more work before it could be called the finished article. A dramatic show about putting on a shoddy show about King Kong is hard to pull off. The problem is that you need to be exceptionally good to get away with pretending to be really bad. At points I wonder if it wouldn't just be better to put on a really brilliant lousy musical about King Kong: drop the drama and just go for it. A great scene from Denham's show, where Kong fights a T-Rex dressed in a moth eaten crocodile costume is well received by the audience and shows the potential of the sillier parts of the piece.
The cast were clearly nervous and their movements, often half-hearted, conveyed a lack of commitment. One of the fundamental rules of performance is that you can get away with a hell of a lot if you do it with conviction. A little jewel shining in the chorus is Katie Underhay who plays Denham's sidekick Weston; a natural actress with an expressive face and impressive singing voice she stood head and shoulders above the rest of the cast (despite her diminutive size) and has great potential to go far.
There's some potential too in the songs, some manage to nicely evoke a 30's feel and there are some original harmonies. In the hands of a skilful arranger and a better chorus they could have a future. There also needs to be more of them and with greater variety to help with the pace and tone of the piece.
A brave attempt that should be applauded for its effort, but nowhere near the finished article.