King Kong Orchestra:
The Band Behind the Beast
Musicians of Broadway takes an in depth look at the orchestra for the hit show King Kong.
A show with a, literally, huge star needs and orchestra with a huge sound. At 19 members strong the King Kong orchestra delivers not only that but shows it’s virtuousic chops nightly navigating a score that jumps from pop to orchestral or techno to hard rock at a moments notice. On top of a challenging score the performance is working in tandem with the many technical elements of this show including a massive video installation that takes up the entire back wall of the theater and of course, the 20 foot high King Kong puppet. Much of the show runs on a time code to accommodate the constantly changing video “set changes” that are not only enormous in size but also constantly in motion. The King Kong puppet also relies heavily on automation to move it’s huge frame not only around the stage but flying it 100 feet straight up into the rafters of the theater when it is not in use.
Tied to all of those things is a score that moves in lock step with all of that action. The experience of performing King Kong is one part live theater and one part playing live to a film and with all of the pitfalls that go along with both. This is no ordinary day in the pit and there is little room, if any at all, for error.
Music Director Michael Gaccetta (sp?) leaps over those pitfalls every night. One look at his station in the pit, which resembles a set piece from the Starship Enterprise with a piano stuck in at the bottom, and you realize his job goes far beyond conductor. With one hand he is cuing singers on stage while the other is poised on a track pad to his left that has to be pressed at a precise moment to fire a click track which will play a countoff into the next song that the orchestra will hear in their headphones. Quickly after that his left foot hits a pedal that advances his keyboard to the glass harmonica patch that is criitcal to the next song and that hand that cued the singers a moment ago is now playing the keyboard and with now no hands free he cues the string section with a nod of his head.