When Michael Crichton first sat down to pen Jurassic Park, little did he realize that a trio of young musical theater writers would one day come up with Triassic Parq – The Musical, an unauthorized retelling of the Crichton novel as the dinosaurs themselves might have told it … and the wildest, wackiest, filthiest, campiest, and most entertaining show ever written from a dino’s point of view.
It’s this 2010 New York Fringe Festival and 2012 Off-Broadway hit that Orange County’s always cutting-edge Chance Theater now gives its West Coast Premiere, a considerably reworked Triassic Parq – The Musical 3.0 that’s certain to delight risk-taking audiences and may even win over staider theatergoers with its infectious blend of sweetness, shock, and raunch.
Book writers Marshall Pailet, Bryce Norbitz, and Steve Wargo take as their inspiration one of Jurassic Park’s central conceits, that in order to keep a tight rein on these genetically resurrected dinosaurs inside their fenced-in Costa Rica island theme park, the scientists in charge have brought only females back to life, making Triassic Parq a mating-free zone.
Then one day dicks start sprouting on some of these ladysauruses—and things around the Parq are never the same again.
Among Triassic Parq – The Musical’s chief conceits is across-the-board gender-bending casting. Thus, we have Camryn Zelinger as our narrator Morgan Freeman—yes, that Morgan Freeman, never mind that Zelinger is both female and white. We also have Keaton Williams (Tony in the Chance’s West Side Story) as Velociraptor Of Innocence, who informs us quite innocently early on that “It’s a beautiful day to be a woman.” Micaela Martinez and Kellie Spill are T-Rex 1 and T-Rex 2, female best friends forever, that is until T-2 finds a brand-new something starting to protrude from down below, and a rather large wrench is thrown into their bff-ship. Then there’s Mime-a-saurus (Alex Bueno), arguably the most gender-ambiguous of the bunch, who could probably teach Marcel Marceau a lesson if he ever paid a visit to Triassic Parq. Last but not least is Veociraptor Of Faith (Jackson Tobiska), aka Pastor, aka Mama, whose rippling musculature belies the fact that he too is a she. More specifically, she’s the entire gang’s “Mom” and their conduit to Lab (as in “Thank Lab” and “Lab Be Praised”), who supplies the dinos with their daily diet of sheep, goats, and other furry munchies.
Triassic Parq – The Musical’s main storyline (though “line” may be too straight a term for the musical’s many twisty turns) has T-Rex 2 banished from the Parq for having introduced peen into the previously dick-free zone. There’s also Velociraptor Of Innocence who, not too happy about the state of things in TP, ventures out beyond the 10,000 Volt electric fences that keep the rest of the dinos prisoners for life, and it is in the far-away wilderness that he meets Velociraptor Of Science (Zelinger again, Morgan Freeman’s early demise allowing her to spend most of Triassic Parq – The Musical in more feminine, albeit decidedly ballsy mode).
Along the way, voices get lifted in song to catchy Pailet tunes in genres ranging from hard rock to hip-hop to power ballads, with lyrics that are indeed as “explicit” as the warning tacked onto every single one of the tracks at Amazon.com. Dirtiest (and funniest) of them all is the raptastic “D*ck Fix,” which goes something like this: “When it’s deep in the summer and you’re getting all hot, and you got a bad itch and it’s next to your crotch, but you’re sitting shiva and you know you shouldn’t scratch it, but you do it anyway cause you have to!” (And that’s just for starts.)
Pailet, Norbitz, and Wargo’s book is every bit as R-rated as their lyrics, though it’s actually the writers’ daffy flights of fancy that make Triassic Parq – The Musical such a delectably demented treat, as when our hero(ine) tells us in all earnestness, “We all know that the metal hole in the earth gives birth to live goats that are chained around the ankles, but no one ever asks the big questions, like ‘Why does goat taste like chicken?’ and ‘What’s chicken?’” There’s also an explanation of “chaos theory” accompanied by a very physical demonstration of it that is at once silly and irresistible. And just wait till these dinosaurs start explaining what makes the genders so distinct, as in, “A dude is sort of like a chick, except they don’t ask for directions.”
Since its 2010 Fringe Festival debut, Triassic Parq – The Musical has undergone significant revision, with as much as 30% of its book and songs brand new for this West Coast Premiere. Morgan Freeman’s rapid disappearance (and his portrayal by a female cast member) contrast with his significantly larger role in New York (and the male 6-footer who played him there), and my guess is that the added focus on the reptiles themselves is a plus. Two brand new musical numbers open the show with a bang, establishing T-Parq’s irreverent tone from the get-go, filling us in on the Velociraptors’ and T-Rexes’ back stories, and giving cast and new-to-Triassic Parq choreographer Kelly Todd and her phenomenal young cast ample opportunities to strut their dinosaurtastic stuff. And T-Rex 1 gets a brand new 11th hour song which showcases Martinez’s rock star belt of a voice.
All of this comes to exciting life on the Chance Theater stage with crackerjack original New York director Pailet on board to ensure that his and his co-writers’ vision remains intact.
Martinez (terrific as always) is but one of a cast of powerhouse triple-threats, which includes the sensational Spill as her partner in friendship, love, and crime, a voluptuous T-Rex 2 whose channeling of her inner macho is as gender-bendingly delicious as is the ever marvelous Williams’ exploration of his feminine side (which includes some ultra-high notes) as leading lady/man Velociraptor Of Innocence. Tobiska’s appealing mix of the maternal, the paternal, and the fabulous makes his Velociraptor Of Faith a standout, as is Zelinger’s rap-aciously fierce Velociraptor Of Science. Last but not least is the hilarious Bueno, who deserves her very own Mime-a-saurus spinoff without ever uttering a word, either as Dinosaur-turned-Performance Artist or in a brief but priceless cameo as Cuddly Cow Companion.
Taylor Stephenson does triple duty as a) musical director; b) keyboardist, and c) a Parq resident called Pianosaurus, who trades occasional barbs with the cast from his above-stage perch, with Ryan Navales as Guitarodactyl and Jorge Zuniga as Percussodon—a wow of a three-piece band if there ever was one.
Under Stephenson’s musical direction, the entire cast sing to rock concert-ready perfection, adding their power vocals to some of the most inventively quirky choreography you’ll see all year, the latest moves invented by Todd, who just keeps getting better and better with each new show.
And we haven’t even gotten to the production design yet, one of the Chance’s best and most original. Reconfiguring the stage area so that the audience sits in a V against two of the four walls, scenic designer Joe Holbrook gives us a Triassic Parq of cliffs and caves and streamers and netting … and a high voltage fence that keeps audience out and the dinosaurs in, or at least at first. Matt Schleicher’s lighting design is every bit as rad as you’d expect from a musical that spells Parq with a “q,” with Ryan Brodkin’s sound design not only mixing amped voices and the three-dino band to perfection but providing some terrific effects as well. Anthony Tran’s costumes are marvels of imagination gone wild, and speaking of going wild, just wait till you see the heights reached by the T-Rexes’ hair (with the aid of goodness knows how many cans of Ultra Clutch) and the wildness achieved by Christopher Booher’s make-up design. Finally, whoever designed the show’s furry, decapitate-able puppets deserves his or her own round of applause.
Over the past decade or more, the Chance Theater has brought Orange County and L.A. audiences some of the best and most cutting-edge new musicals in town, from Rooms: A Rock Romance to The Boy In The Bathroom to Jerry Springer: The Opera to The Girl, The Grouch, And The Goat, and many more. Triassic Parq – The Musical is no exception, and if its characters can’t seem to decide whether the “q” in Parq stands for “question” or for “truth,” it’s clear from its West Coast Premiere that the “q” stands for wild and qwazy fun!
The Chance Theater, 5552 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim Hills.
January 30, 2013
Photos: Doug Catiller, True Image Studio