It’s been more than two decades since Jurassic Park graced cinemas. Sure, the book had come out before that, but it’s the movie we remember – the magic of the cast combined with the direction and the effects have stood the test of time, creating a classic. We all remember the first time we saw Ian Malcolm, the first time we heard that triumphant music, the moment where we understood how dangerous velociraptors were.
Jurassic Park changed us. Impacted us like a meteor crashing down from on high. It was that powerful. It spawned a couple of direct sequels and, more recently, another sequel that may spawn a trilogy in and of itself. And, even more recently than that, the Geekenders theater company has created Jurassic Parody.
Geekenders is Vancouver’s nerdlesque theater troupe, doing everything from small variety shows to larger burlesque efforts to special events, but this is only their second effort at putting on what the more prudish might consider a legitimate musical theatrical production. The first was Portal, and Portal was cute. Jurassic Parody is a much stronger performance overall, and lives up to the promise of parody.
See, Portal stayed very close to the story of the second game. It added musical numbers, sure, but it still kept to the plot points and didn’t deviate much.
At first, Jurassic Parody looks like it might do the same, but there are signs that it is going to veer in different directions early on. For the most part, the first act sets up much of the same points and plots as the movie it is based on, but then the second act happens and everything goes out the window in the best possible way.
He story shifts, changes, mocking itself, the tropes and memes it birthed, the sequels that followed, and even other Geekenders productions. The final result is something spectacular, a breath of fresh air that is every bit as amusing as the original book was challenging, rife with strong performances, clever ideas, and interesting twists that take familiar characters to their logical extremes.
The main human cast does a lot of heavy lifting and is tied together by John Hammond as played by Rob Gillespie, who brings a manic optimism to the part. John is barely tolerant of the people around him questioning his brilliance even after everything goes completely wrong, and seems amused by the horrors around him right up until they get in the way of him opening his park. His final song, I Dreamed a Park, is lovingly sung over the corpse of a velociraptor while the ghosts of his victims hover around him.
It’s a beautiful moment that is overseen by a smirking Ian Malcolm, as played by Graeme Thompson. Graeme has been a part of the Geekenders crew for years and is one of the most talented actors in the Vancouver scene, and he echoes Jeff Goldblum’s famous portrayal with smarmy charm. He’s perfect, piping in with small barbs, hitting on Ellie whenever possible, and generally being the confident sexy manbeast that every fan of the movies knows that he was.
Because, let’s face it – the most dangerous animal in that park was the unbridled sexiness that was that rockstar of a mathematician.
Speaking of Ellie Sattler, her part sees wild expansion in this, and Annette Reilly, the actress that plays her, adds a sense of oblivious glee to the role. Movie-Ellie got in a few decent lines but had little impact on the plot – her role was to force growth and change on others, but she doesn’t change herself in the movie. She also doesn’t change in Jurassic Parody, but she is aware of that lack of change and happy about it. She also gets and action sequence that helps move the story forward, a harrowing chase with velociraptors in the absence of her love, Dr. Alan Grant.
Longstanding Geekenders performer Stephan Blakeley takes on Alan Grant with his usual air of quiet confident disdain. He’s a soft presence, a solid focal point of charisma upon which every other character takes root. We get some callouts to his previous roles in older Geekenders productions, but its his resigned acceptance that makes Dr. Grant such an intriguing character here and becomes the tie by which every other character is defined.
Stephen Blakeley is an actor you learn to appreciate the more you see of him; like a fine wine, you appreciate the subtlety of his craft from one production to the next, learning to spot the small moments he brings to each performance. The man is a foundation stone upon which most Geekenders shows build themselves, and Jurassic Parody is no exception.
The other human actors turn in solid performances all around, ranging from the bratty perfection of John’s grandchildren played by Caitlain Carhoun and Ryan Carson, to the doctors played by Jesse Alvarez and Ali Watson. The character of Muldoon is parodied in a brilliant turn by Sean Fabisch, who pulls of the same trick with Dennis Nedry.
Of all the human characters, though, the one who gets the most change from the source material is Donald Gennaro. The lawyer is openly disdained by the rest of the cast, but becomes the most sympathetic of the humans due to a clever script and the timing of actor Kyle Harland. It’s a character full of surprising moments, and so when his death comes – as it must – we feel his loss.
He is, of course, eaten to death by the Tyrannosaurus Rex.
As good as the humans are, however, anything based off Jurassic Park is going to live or die on the quality of the dinosaurs. Jurassic Parody is no exception.
The costumes are eye-catching, glitzy, and cool. The Triceratops is adorable. The velociraptors have mastered showtunes and are able to harmonize their murderous rampages. The vegesaurus clearly dislikes children as much as the rest of us. And the Tyrannosaurus Rex…
We all wanted more of the Tyrannosaurus Rex in the original movie, didn’t we? She got two scenes, really, that bit with the goat and then when she saved the day at the end. Her appearance here is masterfully built, and actress Alison Jenkins owns it when she finally does show up. Everyone else is cute when they sing, but the Tyrannosaurus Rex is operatic. She dominates.
So when she comes out in the middle of the second act and laments her lack of a role in this play, we know something is up. When she comes to save the day at the end, she’s not doing it out of altruism – she’s here to murder everyone, and there’s no one and nothing that can stop her. She is a force of nature, and Alison Jenkins plays her like one.
Jurassic Parody is playing from Tuesday, November 17 through to Saturday, November 21 a the York Theater on Commercial Drive in Vancouver. You can find more details by clicking here, and you should. This was an awesome show. Recommend it we do.