One doesn’t often associate dinosaurs with complex personalities. The long-extinct creatures, with emotional baggage in tow, will make their way to City Stage this weekend in “Triassic Parq: the Musical.” Comedic and colored with rock ‘n’ roll grooves, the City Stage Co. production brings a new face to raptor-kind.
“Triassic Parq: the Musical,” then titled “Jurassic Parq: The Broadway Musical,” premiered in 2010 as part of the NY International Fringe Festival. The musical got its first official run as an Off-Broadway production in 2012, with music by Marshall Pailet and lyrics by Marshall Pailet, Bryce Norbitz and Steve Wargo. Based on the novel and film, “Jurassic Park,” it brings the dinosaurs to the forefront and allows their perspective to tell the story. It starts with a clan of genetically engineered female dinosaurs (Alissa Fetherolf), whose world is turned upside down when one of them suddenly turns into a male.
“They are struggling with faith, love and gender identity,”director Rachael Moser informs. “They sing, dance, swear, procreate, and eat goats.”
The show comes in the funny, edgy vein of past City Stage productions like “Debbie Does Dallas” and “Reefer Madness.” Musical director Amanda Hunter, alongside the production’s band, Justin Lacy and the Swimming Machine (well, part of the Machine), will bring the rock songs, love ballads, marches and more to life. Many of the tunes mimic songs from other popular musicals, and, of course, Lacy and his band have put their own brand of pizzazz into the musical numbers.
“The music is so modern and energetic,” Fetherolf says. “Every song has its own personality! The lyrics are so funny and sometimes bizarre that it is a thrill ride for the audience.”
“My favorite is a song called ‘Mama,’ in which the Velociraptor of Innocence (Brad Mercier) decides she is going to do what she wants no matter what she’s told to do,” Moser describes. “It’s a catchy rock song, with sexy moves.”
Choreography comes from Kendra Goehring-Garrett. “We have been dino-blessed with a very funny, talented group of people,” Moser quips.
Like any good production, underlining motifs add weight to the comedic tone. Despite an all-female cast of characters, roles are undertaken by both men and women, truly honing in on the gender-bending aspect of the musical. As the plot of “Triassic Parq: the Musical” unfolds, themes of love, power, family, faith, science, gender identity, and acceptance become apparent.
“My dream would be that audience members get wrapped up in the characters so much that they forget that they’re dinosaurs, but then are caught in a laugh when the dinosaurs have to suddenly do something dino-like,” Moser says.
Bringing human emotion to voiceless beings from yesteryear proves a difficult challenge. However, actress Chandler Davis truly sunk her teeth the role of Velociraptor of Science. Having been adopted and raised by three women, the show’s message hits home for Davis.
“It’s really about the importance of building a community and the fact that a family can be made of whatever you want you want it to be as long as love and acceptance are at the center of it all,” she says. “This show is funny. This show is silly. It’s absolutely a comedy. It’s also about this group of individuals who are battling their own demons and struggling with fear.”
Characterized by a confidence and a fervor for answering life’s probing questions, Velociraptor of Science deals being ostracized from her community merely because of her curiosity. “In a group setting she feels the need to be the alpha which really lends itself to finding an aggressive dinosaur stance from a physical perspective,” Davis says. “Once we figured out as a team how we wanted to move in this show, which took time, matching my character’s spirit to her physicality came naturally.”
Conceptualizing the dinosaur movement encompassed a huge undertaking at first. The cast began with a more human feel, but as rehearsals continued, they became more comfortable with dino-physicality. They even have blended jazz hands with raptor claws. Robin Heck, who plays one of the T-Rex’s, even found that anger can be fun as a dinosaur. The character desperately wishes to fit in, but an eruption of emotion sometimes takes hold.
“It’s made a huge difference,” Davis details. “For me, having claws and crouching is a physical manifestation of the aggression my character feels. On the other hand, when you see a bunch of people running around on stage like dinosaurs, it’s hilarious, which is awesome.”
“Really, the most challenging thing about the playing of the dinosaur has been trying to be accurate in the physicality of character,” Patrick Basquill, who plays the Velociraptor of Faith, adds. “And to feel comfortable and natural in that physicality. Also eating all the raw meet in preparation has been just a little bit troublesome.
Mohawk-esque, feather-laden hairstyles, combined with vibrant facial paint, will create the dino-look without restricting movement. An immerisve production, the dinosaurs will make their way into the audience during song-and-dance numbers via a newly built catwalk. The outreach beyond the stage will place a couple of the tables in the onstage park. An open design will facilitate the large-scale musical; after all, what would a show about some of the world’s largest creatures be without a performance space to match. The familiar Jurassic Park doors and an electric fence will adorn the stage. Tech director Will Burns, along with other helping hands, took painstaking efforts to build the set.
“[The show is] about letting go and letting love in,” Davis says. “My personal motto is ‘run toward the fear” and that’s what these dinosaurs are going to have to do.”
Triassic Parq: the Musical
City Stage, 21 North Front Street #501
Thurs.-Sun., Feb. 5-22, 8 p.m.; Feb. 22: 3 p.m.