Review of Jurassic Park: The Musical! at Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre

    Two musicals based on Jurassic Park opened here in April, but the overlap was minimal. The production that just closed was a hoot, and so is the one that just opened.

    The show that just closed was Stray Dog Theatre’s Triassic Parq The Musical. It was a side story rather than a direct parody. It focused on the dinosaurs instead of the people in the Steven Spielberg blockbuster and explored the consequences of introducing maleness into an all-female society.

    The show that just opened is Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre’s Jurassic Park: The Musical! It closely follows the movie’s plot while mocking its excesses.

    The premise of Jurassic Park is that entrepreneurs have turned anisland off the coast of Costa Rica into a theme park populated with dinosaurs. They were cloned from DNA extracted from blood ingested by mosquitos fossilized in amber.

    The movie tells the story of a group of people whose lives are on the line after a catastrophic failure of the barrier keeping the dinosaurs away from the people.

    Magic Smoking Monkey version, directed by Donna Northcott, delivers exactly what St. Louis audiences expect from the pop culture parodies that are so popular here.

    The quirks of characters and actors are subjected to entertaining caricatures. Rob McLemore lampoons the distinctive cadence as Jeff Goldblum as Ian Malcolm, the expert on Chaos Theory who utters the film’s most famous line: “Life finds a way.” James Enstall has fun with the nastiness in Wayne Knight’s portrayal of Dennis Nedry, the computer nerd whose opportunism causes all the trouble.

    Jack Janssen has a firm handle in the cheerfulness of Richard Attenborough’s Hammond, while Bill Blanke conveys the intensity of Bob Peck’s Muldoon. Jordan Wolk as Alan Grant and Danielle Sherman as Ellie Sattler admirably recreate the scientists originated by Sam Neill and Laura Dern. Riley Stevenson channels his inner child as Tim, Hammond’s grandson. Stevenson is one of the operators of a hand puppet that amusingly substitutes for the other grandchild. 

    The fine supporting cast adds to the fun. The bracketed names in the following list are the actors who played the same part in the film.

    • Kim Byrnes as Virtual Reality Hammond, Security, etc.
    • Katie Brunwasser as Mr. DNA, Guide, Raptor
    • Brandon Ellis as Ray Arnold [Samuel L. Jackson]
    • Hunter Fredrick as Gennaro [Martin Ferrero], Pushing Team 
    • Marleena Garris as, Harding [Gerald R. Molen], Amber, Dilophosaurus
    • Mack Holtman as Henry Wu [B.D. Wong], Asst, Mosquito, Raptor
    • Creighton Markovich as Ensemble
    • Marissa Meadows as Ensemble

    Much of the buffoonery is funny on its own, but a recent viewing of the Jurassic Park helped me appreciate the adapters’ ingenuity. If I had not seen the movie, would I have recognized that chest thumping was the sound of an unseen helicopter? Maybe, but I would not have realized how inspired the use of semicircular fans was in Dennis Nedry’s death scene.

    The songs written for the show have music by Nick Bohl and Dave Stevenson and lyrics by Jaysen A. Cryer and Donna Northcott. The musical numbers work well in the context of a Magic Smoking Monkey show. One of them explains Dennis Nedry’s back story with notable efficiency. The one called “Life Finds a Way” elicited the biggest response on opening night.

    The production benefits from SH Boygen’s scenic design, Cora Varland’s costumes, John “JT” Taylor’s sound and lighting, and Amanda Handle’s props. Mack Holtman’s choreography

    Jurassic Park: The Musical! continues through May 7 at the Robert G. Reim Theatre in the Kirkwood Community Center 111 South Geyer Road. This is a larger venue than I’m used to for Magic Smoking Monkey shows, but it worked out fine.

    —Gerry Kowarsky

    Photo by Marleena Garris