Brian Newell might have pulled off the eighth wonder of the world with his latest Maverick Theater production, King Kong. Clever, engaging, and most importantly fun, it stirs not only a new appreciation for the classic 1933 film, but for local live theater as well. 

Starring Kalinda Gray as Ann Darrow and Paul Zelhart as Carl Denham, the production zips along at a bracing pace from start to finish, running under 90 minutes including intermission. Gray, Zelhart and the rest of the cast have infused their roles with a sense of whimsy and joy that keeps the audience engaged and the plot moving at a sprint all the way.

Newell’s employment of video, miniatures and various tech, enables the whole production to work without ever feeling cold and alienating, bringing a sense of both fully-intended humor as well as wonder as the production goes on. The fact this mix works is just short of amazing, because it could have gone wrong a dozen ways.

Audiences will know all the familiar scenes from the original film and cheer the big fella’s arrival, but the production always manages to find the right balance between humor and drama to leave you with a smile on your face even if ’twas beauty killed the beast. 

King Kong runs through March 17 at the Maverick Theater, 110 E. Walnut Avenue in Fullerton, CA. Tickets are $30.

Carl Denham (Paul Zelhart) directs Ann Darrow (Kalinda Gray) in the Maverick Theater’s “King Kong.” Photo by Jessica Peralta.
Carl Denham (Paul Zelhart) is leading Ann Darrow and his crew on a dangerous adventure. Photo by Jessica Peralta.
Ann Darrow (Kalinda Gray) is rescued from giant, prehistoric danger by Kong (Rob Downs) and Jack Driscoll (Jake Kilroy). Photo by Jessica Peralta.

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