06 May 2019

Tony Awards nominations final vindication for Aussie behemoth King Kong

Sydney Morning Herald

Sometimes, in the chilly early hours of an autumnal Sydney morning, even a Tony Award nomination isn’t enough to get you out of bed.

“I went to wake him up but he was asleep,” laughs Carmen Pavlovic, producer of Broadway behemoth King Kong, about the Tony nod her partner Peter England scored for his design work on the musical.

“My 10-year-old daughter who never sleeps was awake in her bed so I went and told her, ‘Daddy got a nomination.’ She was excited.”

The Broadway musical, produced by Pavlovic’s Global Creatures, earned three Tony nominations on Wednesday morning, when the prestigious theatre awards were announced in the US.

For King Kong, England is up for Best Scenic Design of a Musical, Peter Mumford for Best Lighting Design of a Musical, and Peter Hylenski for Best Sound Design in a Musical. In another Aussie nod, Eddie Perfect – who also penned lyrics for the Broadway musical – earned a nomination for Best Original Score for his work on another Broadway spectacle, Beetlejuice.

“It’s a lovely acknowledgement for the industry here and the capabilities of the Australian talent pool, which is vast,” says Pavlovic of the unprecedented Aussie contingent on the nominees list. “It’s a proud moment for those individuals, but also for the Australian industry to see that recognised on a world stage.”

For Pavlovic, who returns to New York later this month to begin rehearsals for Moulin Rouge‘s Broadway run, Wednesday’s nominations proved a final vindication for King Kong, plagued as it’s been by middling reviews and a troubled Broadway lead-up that included multiple delays and staff changes following its Melbourne run.

“I never really viewed King Kong as a traditional musical… Part of the development work in taking it to New York was in trying to get the rest of the show to rise to meet the ambition and artistry of the Kong creature itself,” says Pavlovic.

“We’re really mindful that King Kong is a spectacle and those sorts of things aren’t necessarily in favour with the critics. But I think the community celebrates the ambition and the artistry of the show. I think that’s really special and I’m very proud about that.”

Particularly gratifying was the Special Tony Award announcement, to be presented to the man behind the monkey, Melbourne animatronics artist Sonny Tilders and his Creature Technology Company.

“No one has ever done work on that scale of bespoke puppetry, it’s unique in the world,” says Pavlovic. “So it’s especially lovely for that to be recognised.”

The musical Hadestown, a retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in a Great Depression-era setting, led all acts with 14 nominations. Jukebox musical Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations and the critically-beloved Tootsie followed with 12 and 11 nominations, respectively.

The Tony Awards will be presented on June 9 at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, with James Corden hosting.