KING KONG So Wrong…or So Right?

So I was just stumbling through the pages of Telecharge.com, Broadway’s leading supplier of headaches tickets.

Quick tangential rant: It literally doesn’t make any sense that the Shuberts — the website’s operators AND the proprietors of a majority of the theatres on the Great White Way, which are Broadway’s most valuable assets, AKA the company has oodles of money — haven’t funded a website update to make the ticket buying process smoother…which is, you know, pretty important; I’ve gotten so frustrated with it before that I actually decided not to — or sometimes even couldn’t — buy tickets. And if that’s happening to a somewhat technologically adept 27 year old, imagine how old biddies — Broadway’s bread and butter — must feel…

But that’s actually not what I want to discuss in this post. Rather, I’d like to talk about this key art that caught my eye during my Telecharge stumblings:

King-Kong-Musical-Broadway-Show-Tickets-176-110117

To be perfectly frank, my first reaction to it is complete and utter befuddled laughter…which probably isn’t what they’re going for? Unless I’m supposed to find the idea of King Kong in a vaudeville-style spotlight — as if he’s about to Fosse his way across the stage — freaking hilarious?

I initially chalked it up as yet another misstep in a musical whose history is littered with them, with a revolving door of writers becoming attached then unattached to the project, as if not even the most talented veterans could figure out how this spectacle from Australia — Kong’s brought to vivid, full-sized life onstage! — could work, both artistically and financially, in the capital of spectacular live entertainment (and yet, I’m still optimistic, mostly due to the involvement of playwright Jack Thorne — a playwright I admire, and who’s majorly responsible for the Harry Potter plays about to take New York by storm, so he’s no stranger to bringing Kong-sized properties to the stage).

But then I notice her.

I definitely still smirk at the thought of the two of them sharing a dance together in a classic Act-2 surrealist ballet…but even with this somewhat amusing thought in my head, I can’t help but be taken with the art’s use of negative space. In case you haven’t spotted her yet, the prototypical damsel-in-distress — who’ll surely be injected with a shot of 21st century feminism in the show proper — appears in and as the white between Kong’s front legs.

I’m even more impressed with the design when I consider how this yin-and-yang imagery also possesses thematic relevance; the relationship between Kong and humanity (the latter is often more animalistic and less empathetic than the former) is one of the more interesting elements of the tale, which I hope the show explores. Plus, the art definitely conveys the ape’s size compared to the rest of our puny world, which communicates the magnitude of the promised spectacle for audiences who like seeing the outrageous amount of money they must fork over for tickets up on stage. Plus plus, any iteration of King Kong proves most effecting if the audience feels the alchemic connection between Kong and his captive, so clearly the ad team (if no one else) understands what makes the story soar…er, climb?

Speaking of the movie’s most famous scene — Kong and his lady are caught in a spotlight on top of the Empire State Building, with the moon illuminating their profiles — the artwork clearly suggests it as well. This is how the Australian production staged the moment:

Screen Shot 2018-02-16 at 7.46.05 AM

It’s always smart to remind audiences of their favorite scenes when selling a pre-existing brand. It’s also always smart to create a recognizable logo that audiences immediately associate with a big new Broadway musical. Almost every major show not reliant on a celebrity to sell tickets — which no long-running musical can be — has one: The Phantom of the Opera‘s mask, Les Miz‘s peasant girl, Wicked‘s similarly yin-and-yang, white/green, good/bad witches. The list goes on and on.

It’s interesting to note how the major successes that nevertheless perhaps didn’t run as long as they should’ve often never crafted such a logo; The Producers, for instance, at first only sold Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. Once they left, advertisers couldn’t fall back on any logo apart of them. This is probably more a reflection of what made the show appealing to audiences and less an indictment of the ad team’s approach; even if they had come up with a snazzy logo, I’m not sure it would’ve sold any more tickets if it didn’t boast the likes of Lane and Broderick.

And that’s an important lesson to keep in mind when contemplating such matters: No matter the strength of King Kong‘s ad campaign, it’ll most likely still need to be good to be successful. Smart campaigns manage to capture the best qualities of a show, and then remind potential ticket buyers of them again and again and again and again. Along these repetitive lines, by choosing a circular moon/spotlight motif,  the logo can replace any “O” used in marketing materials, plastering it all over the city. Two examples (note how the Empire State Building replaces the “I” in the first; yet another reminder of THAT beloved scene):

KingKong

Screen Shot 2018-02-16 at 6.57.49 AM

I’m still not 100% sure how I feel about the art; is it still too unintentionally kitschy, even if the vaudevillian spotlight firmly establishes a connection between Kong and his name being up on the marquee lights of Broadway?

Regardless of my persona opinion, the fact that I just spent so much time thinking about and dissecting it means the ad team is doing something right. Since their number 1 job is to draw attention to the show, 1,000-words worth of attention would have to constitute as a win in their book. Maybe other potential ticket buyers will follow my lead…

That is, until the archaic, unresponsive, unintuitive clunkiness that is Telecharge prevents them from buying tickets.

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