Unauthorized Musical Parody Series: Jurassic Park
Take Steven Spielberg’s beloved film Jurassic Park; add a classic-rock soundtrack, a dash of Rocky Horror camp, and a bedazzled T-Rex, and you’ll have a slight idea of the UMPO Series: Jurassic Park at Rockwell Table & Stage.
Writer and creator of the UMPO Series, Kate Pazakis reimagines the classic film as a tongue-in-cheek musical, highlighting both what we love about Jurassic Park (the dinosaurs) and what we have come to joke about (the sexiness of Jeff Goldblum). UMPO’s Jurassic Park follows the basic structure of the movie: Paleontologists Ellie and Grant are recruited by Hammond to approve his new, dinosaur-filled theme park, until a storm (and “Newman!”) sets the dinosaurs loose and the humans to fight for survival. But UMPO’s version is anything but basic.
Director Nathan Moore and choreographer Mallory Butcher have the crazy cast of characters – and dinosaurs – roaming, singing and gyrating around the tables and bar of the Rockwell Table & Stage. Filled with energy and winking at the audience, the cast brought life to this prehistoric story, and massive pipes to rockin’ songs like “Born to be Wild,” “Push It” and “Welcome to the Jungle.” The cast mingled with the audience, interacting with them and commanding the space.
What blew me away the most was UMPO’s creativity. Their interpretation of Jurassic Park’s real stars, the dinosaurs, was inventive and so much fun to watch. The massive T-Rex head, the lithe raptors, a sneezing brachiosaurus, the colorful “spitter” and the dino-stampede were all there, pushing the boundaries of theater and the imagination. I loved it.
The cast was phenomenal; they brought the enthusiasm and camp up to eleven, staying in character(s) constantly, even when not the main focus of the action. As the “straight men” among the insanity, Keir Kirkegaard (Grant) and Lesley McKinnell (Ellie) held down the fort with their singing and rock solid performances. Amanda Kruger (Tim) and Lana McKissack (Lex) playfully embodied Hammond’s grandchildren, now portrayed as a dirty-joke teller and a stringent vegan, respectfully. Previously seen in Spamilton, Dedrick Bonner (Dr. Arnold) upped the sassy while channeling his inner Samuel L. Jackson, even reciting some of his most famous lines. Owain Rhys-Davies owned his cane-carrying, hip-thrusting Hammond.
While the entire cast was strong, the stand-outs for me were E.K. Dagenfield, Michael Thomas Grant and Molly Stilliens. On triple-duty, Dagenfield played slimy lawyer Gennaro, Ho-Ho eating Newman, and short-shorts-wearing game warden Muldoon. With various accents and nods to his other characters, Dagenfield brightened the stage with each persona. Grant, as the aforementioned “sexy Goldblum,” lived up to the legend. With every stutter and hand-flourish, Grant exuded sex appeal and charm in his tight pants and progressively opened shirt, even when in the background. Stilliens, having the difficult task of playing Jurassic Park’s real hero – the T-Rex – absolutely killed it. A diva decked out in jewels and sequins, she stalked around the stage, slaying her songs and everything else on her runway.
There were so many funny moments that I don’t want to spoil here. UMPO not only poked fun at Jurassic Park, but at the movie industry, other films and Jeff Goldblum’s current residency performing with his jazz band at the Rockwell. As a tribute to Jurassic Park, the bar created custom cocktails for the evening including “The Clever Girl” and “Amphibian DNA.” The lighting design successfully focused the action throughout the crowded restaurant. With minimal set design, the props, actors and band kept the show engaging from opening to the finale.
I only had two minor nit-picks to the show. One was that, from where I was sitting, my view was occasionally blocked by pillars (which there were even jokes about) or tables. With restaurant-style seating, however, this is bound to happen during the course of the show. The other nit-pick, and probably the most bothersome to me, was that I couldn’t always hear the actors over the band, even though they wore mics. I’m not sure if the mix was off, or if the speakers weren’t turned in my direction, but I felt like I missed out on some fun lyrics and maybe even some legit jokes. I could tell that all of the actors were great singers; I just wish I could hear and understand everything they sang.
I was blown away by how much I enjoyed UMPO Series: Jurassic Park. It was a ferociously funny, delightful musical parody that kept me hugely entertained. Do yourself a favor and take a bite out of history with a non-traditional night at the theater.
Jurassic Park runs through April 28th and is for adults. Get your tickets here.