- Published on Thursday, 28 June 2012 19:53
- Written by Prof Miller
ProfMiller @The Theater
If the only singing and dancing dinosaur you are acquainted with is Barney, PBS’s cuddly purple T-Rex, let me introduce you to the gang currently holding court at The Soho Playhouse in a revival of “Triassic Parq The Musical,” winner of the 2010 FringeNYC Overall Excellence Award.
Formerly known as “Jurassic Parq: The Broadway Musical” (one imagines a pointed exchange of letters between attorneys leading up to the name change), the show is an ideal summer romp, an ingenious and highly entertaining spoof of a certain movie franchise, with book and lyrics by Marshall Pailet, Bryce Norbitz, and Stephen Wargo, and music by Mr. Pailet (who also directs the production).
While not altogether cuddly, the musical’s three Velociraptors, two T-Rex’s, and a couple of newly discovered species generally have roars that are worse than their bites (unless you happen to be a goat or a cow). If it weren’t for liberal use of the F-Word, I’d say bring the kids—provided the kids are able to appreciate the battle between faith and science, and the exploration of personal and gender identity that underpin this tale of a young dinosaur on a quest.
The fun starts as soon as you enter the theater, thanks to the wonderful set design by Caite Hevner, appropriately moody lighting by Jen Schriever, and sound design by Carl Casella and Christopher Cronin. You are in a rain forest. Mist rises, and you can hear blood-curdling roars and thunderous thumps all around. Just ahead you can see the electrified enclosures for the dinosaurs.
While waiting for the show to begin, you can read the descriptive signs on the enclosures (“I am a Velociraptor”), or you can leaf through the program, a tabloid newspaper with headlines like “Tourist Snaps Photo of Flying Dinosaur!” and “Storm Washes Baby Plesiosaurus Ashore!” You can also watch those audience members who have opted for on-stage seating as they receive instructions from a staff person. Later on, you’ll either wish you were sitting with them, or you will be relieved that you aren’t. Hint: One of them is given a “Splashzoneasaurus” poncho to wear.
The houselights dim, and we are greeted by none other than “Morgan Freeman,” who is there to explain to us the science that has made possible the cloning of the dinosaurs. The key to keeping everything under control, he says, is to prevent reproduction; hence, all of the dinosaurs are female.
The story unfolds from the perspective of the dinosaurs, led by the Velociraptor of Faith (Wade McCollum), the troop’s spiritual advisor, who prescribes the rites to ensure the daily goat will miraculously appear at mealtime each day.
Of course, as in “Jurassic Park” the movie, chaos theory and Mother Nature combine to thwart the plans of overreaching humans. One of the T-Rex’s awakens to find she has grown an inexplicable appendage between her legs (Mr. Freeman blames the frog DNA used in the cloning process; for further explanation, you are referred to Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg.)
The Velociraptor of Faith immediately expels the aberrant T-Rex from the compound, raising underlying questions of sexual identity and the treatment of transgendered individuals. The young Velociraptor of Innocence (Alex Wyse) breaks out of the compound in search of truth, ultimately making her way to the Velociraptor of Faith’s sister, the Velociraptor of Science (Lindsay Nicole Chambers, a standout).
While this may read like an existential treatise, it is all rather fun. The songs are bouncy and clever (when was the last time you heard someone rhyme “species” with “he-shes?”), and make specific musical references to “The Music Man” and to John Williams’ film score. You are likely to leave the theater singing “we are dinosaurs” to a tune that you never knew had lyrics.
The cast is uniformly strong and includes, in addition to those I have already named, Shelley Thomas and Claire Neumann as a pair of BFF T-Rexes, Brandon Espinoza as the versatile “Mime-a-saurus,” and Lee Seymour as Morgan Freeman. Choreographer Kyle Mullins and director Marshall Pailet keep the dinosaurs happily hopping in Dina Perez’s colorful costumes, and Zak Sandler (piano) and Jeremy Yaddaw (percussion) serve the score well.
As Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones once wrote, “New York is a summer festival.” Enjoy!
If you have enjoyed this column, you can read more of my reviews at my theater blog, Upstage-Downstage, available at www.upstage-downstage.blogspot.com.
See you @The Theater!