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BWW Review: TRIASSIC PARQ is T-Rex Size Fun

The cast of TRIASSIC PARK (left to right): Jacob Richard Axelson, Marissa Druzbanski, Erin Daly, Caitlin Boho, Neala Barron, Parker Guidry,and Patrick Stengle. Photo by Flaming City Photography.

A hit at the New York Fringe Festival and a critical smash off-Broadway, "TRIASSIC PARQ - THE MUSICAL makes its Chicago debut in a Circle Theatre production at the Heartland Studio (7016 N. Glenwood)

Pardon the pun, but you don't have to be a paleontologist to know this prehistoric show is pre-hysterically funny. The plot throws gender politics in with the age old struggle between faith and science. Toss in a decent amount of songs by Marshall Pailet, Bryce Norbitz and Steve Wargo that are well-sung by the cast and you've got the makings of a T-Rex size hit.

The plot for this witty and occasionally vulgar (and unapologetically so) show is based on the novel and film "Jurassic Park," but told from the perspective of the dinosaurs. As our narrator, Morgan Freeman (Caitlin Boho) quickly recaps: science has managed to clone dinosaurs from nine parts DNA and one part frog. "Forget the birds and the bees/all the dinosaurs are shes," he sings in the opening number (the tune itself is very reminiscent of THE MUSIC MAN). Of course, fans of the film will know that nature will eventually find a way.

Velociraptor of Faith (Parker Guidry) leads his flock in worship of LAB (like God, the science lab is the giver of life and also keeps the creatures fed via the occasional lamb sacrifice). The flock includes a pair of BFF Tyrannosaurus Rex (Erin Daly and Neala Barorn as T-Rex 1 and T-Rex 2, respectively), the Velociraptor of Innocence (Parker Guidry) and the not-scientifically-based in the slightest "Mime-a-saurus" (a hilarious and animate Patrick Stengle in full mime get-up).

The Velociraptor of Innocence longs for the life beyond the electric fence and once Velociraptor of Faith banishes T-Rex 2 for the unthinkable crime of growing a penis, Velociraptor of Innocence begins to question her faith, eventually breaking out of the area and seeking out the previously-banished Velociraptor of Science (Marissa Druzbanski, as a tough raptor who raps about scientific theory).

Despite the multiple penis jokes in the show, there is a sweet, emotional center to the piece. Guidry's hope song ("Get Out") is a showstopper with Guidry showing both vulnerability and tenacity while managing to hit some "Defying Gravity" notes.

Perhaps the most heart-wrenching moment comes from Neala Barron. Her character, once a she and now a he, pleads with his former best friend T-Rex 1 to still "love me as a friend" despite his additional appendage. It's a great, emotional duet and both Barron and Daly tear into the emotional meat of it

The intimate Heartland Studio means there really isn't a bad seat in the house. The ensemble singing (unamplified) is some of the best choral work I've heard on a Chicago stage this year. Bravo to music director/pianosaurus Justin Harner.

Katerina's costume designs are reminiscent of the glam-rock 70's (an era known for its own gender-bending). Scenic design by Jimmy Jagos features an homage to that massive park entrance from the film as well as various greenery. The direction by Tommy Bullington and Nicholas Reinhart keeps things moving at a brisk pace -the 90 minute show without an intermission flies by.

TRIASSIC PARQ is the perfect show for people who like their musicals hip, witty and with an earnest, emotional heart.

TRIASSIC PARQ - THE MUSICAL runs through Oct. 4 at the Heartland Studio, 7016 N. Glenwood. Tickets $20-$23.

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From This Author Misha Davenport