Monkey King+ Back

(Last updated: August 24, 2017)


Monkey King is based on one of the China’s four greatest literary classics, Journey to the West, which was written by Wu Cheng'en and published sometime in the late Ming Dynasty.  It tells the story of a Buddhist monk named Xuanzang, who travels to India with three disciples in search of holy texts.  One of the disciples is Sun Wukong, a monkey born from a stone who becomes a martial arts master and eventually learns the secrets of immortality.  Anyone who spends an extended amount of time in China inevitably hears or knows something about the story and its characters, whether they learn Chinese or not. 


Monkey King isn’t a straight up re-make of Journey to the West, but focuses more on the exploits of Sun Wukong, the most cunning and violent of the three disciples.  Since the show is in Chinese, I was initially worried about not being able to follow it, but there wasn’t much dialogue to speak of, and subtitles were provided the rare instances when someone spoke.  They were very hard to see however if you sat close to the front like we did, so it might be a good idea to make sure you sit somewhere further back.


Journey to the West is a classic Chinese story and Monkey King was definitely put together with that audience in mind.  A stunning visual spectacle, much of the 70 minute show involves performers dancing, jumping, spinning, doing gymnastics, body contortion, stunts, acrobatics and other special effects.  Some of the scenes are simply majestic, utilizing a lot of bright pastel colors and fantastic costumes, makeup and lighting.  In some ways, it’s a lot like the House of the Dancing Water, without the water, if that makes any sense.


Made for the mainland by the mainland, Monkey King is truly beautiful to look at, but I’m afraid that’s all it is, which is why I only give it 5 stars out of 10.  The eye candy definitely took precedent first, much to the detriment of the story that was never allowed to properly evolve and grow.  Without much plot development, character development, dialogue or evidence of a connected flowing narrative, I never felt emotionally connected to the characters at all, and kept waiting for a reason to become interested in what I was seeing.  It’s also far too expensive with cheapest seats $480 (now $380!), putting it on par with the House of Dancing Water, which is a more elaborate, longer and better show.  If I learned one thing from watching it, it’s that the big hand of the Buddha will come and save you whenever you need it.  Maybe they should use it in some way to save this performance.   

Showtimes are 8 pm nightly at Sands Cotai except Thursdays when it’s dark.  Tickets range from $380 to $1580, an obscenely high number for a show that’s only 70 minutes long and more akin to an aesthetically pleasing circus performance than a serious piece of drama.