The following review is based on the February 9th performance.
Now in its 25th anniversary since being released in cinemas in 1993, the Steven Spielberg-directed “Jurassic Park” (based on the novel by Michael Crichton) has earned a place in the pantheon of science-fiction movies, prompting sequels that have continued to this day with massive success. The original film is still the best, however, as not only a special-effects achievement of its time that still holds up fairly well today, but for stirring our innate fear about the antediluvian and impossibly large dinosaurs, whom we first learned about as children.
Directed by Nathan Moore, and written and executive-produced by the ingenious Kate Pazakis, who also stars on stage for the first time in nearly a decade as the indomitable Tyrannosaurus Rex, “The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Jurassic Park,” which plays through April 28th, has rekindled our imagination with not just thrills, but laugh-out-loud satire, memorable characterizations, and fantastic singing. Director Moore has paced the Rockwell Table & Stage show very well, as it runs at a brisk two hours, punctuating its funny moments effectively, and enabling the performers, who are all double-cast, to stand out in their own unique manner. Assisting in this regard are musical director Gregory Nabours (piano) and band members Emily Rosenfield (guitar), Blake Estrada (bass) and Greg Sadler (drums), who are brilliantly able to transition from one classic or modern pop song to another, as the actors sing and groove in snazzy khakis to Mallory Butcher’s vivacious choreography.
Starring as Sam Neill’s Dr. Grant and Laura Dern’s Ellie are Keir Kirkegaard and Lesley McKinnell (Sterling Sulieman and Bianca Gisselle play the protagonists on other nights). Kirkegaard pulls off the intelligent guy next door almost effortlessly, who becomes understandably confused and disheartened when his potential love interest becomes infatuated with Michael Thomas Grant’s must-see impersonation of Jeff Goldblum (who coincidentally performs at the Rockwell on Wednesday nights). McKinnell and Grant share an uproarious chemistry, as the former’s character tries diligently to avoid the charm of the latter, who is unrelentingly sensual and preoccupied with skin moisturizer even as the park turns into a perilous nightmare. Grant turns up Goldblum’s idiosyncrasies to the 11th level on the dial, as he is resoundingly pedantic with his legato speech, and yet also impressive with his gritty vocal interpretation of Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild.” Likewise, McKinnell demonstrates her versatility as not only an actress with great comic timing, but one with soaring vocals, especially when she belts P!nk’s “What About Us” in Act II.
Owain Rhys Davies is Hammond (Trevin Goin shares the role), and his character’s grandchildren are played by Lex’s Lana McKissack (shared with Anna Grace Barlow) as well as Tim’s Amanda Kruger (shared with Zack Colonna). Davies is everything you remember about Richard Attenborough from the film, replete with a British accent so thick it’s chewable, a walking cane that doubles as a dance prop, and a voice that is perfectly suited to “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory’s” “Pure Imagination.” Lex and Tim are reintroduced through an amusing contemporary lens via McKissack and Kruger’s unmitigated child-like spirit, whose portrayals often enter the forefront with oodles of whimsy and enjoyable absurdity. The two, moreover, help anchor many of the musical numbers, like Hall & Oates’ “Maneater,” and particularly Sia’s “Alive,” which is appropriately poignant.
Filling the shoes of Samuel L. Jackson’s Dr. Arnold is Dedrick Bonner (alternated with Rhett George), who was one of the highlights of the recently concluded “Spamilton” at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Bonner is a house afire as a Tasmanian devil of energy and intensity, mixing a coolly carefree attitude with an unhinged disposition that is amazing to witness. Whether he is reciting renowned monologues, strutting his stuff as a flamboyantly mystical Gallimimus dinosaur, or exercising his vocal muscles during “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child and “It’s Raining Men” by The Weather Girls, Bonner lays it all out on the line, giving the audience everything he has and more. Additionally, accomplished actor E.K. Dagenfield also deserves recognition for, by his own truthful admission, making “very strong choices between characters” – three of them, in fact, which include Gennaro, the mischievous and Ho Hos-eating Newman, and the Aussie, Muldoon, who makes humorously long and ambling strides across the stage (Pablo Rossil also plays these characters).
Last, but not least, is Kate Pazakis, who demonstrates that she’s as formidable a performer as she is a visionary with her depiction as the T-Rex antagonist (alternated with Molly Stilliens). Clad in black and green, while puppeteering the king of the dinosaurs, Pazakis vocalizes some of the best rock anthems – like Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and Guns N’ Roses “Welcome to the Jungle” – with an astounding clarity, and then mixes it up by admirably rapping LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out.” Even better yet, Pazakis exhibits a great patience for allowing the comedy to naturally happen, as opposed to forcing it, which is best evinced with her exasperated facial expressions (e.g., during scenes that poke fun at the film’s CGI).
Without fail, “The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Jurassic Park” is another home run by Kate Pazakis and Gregory Nabours for being a terrific installment in the famed UMPO series. It makes us fall in love with dinosaurs all over again with a fun-filled spectacle that throws caution to the wind, carpe-diem style. More importantly, it gives audience members full-fledged permission to revel vicariously in the fantastically farcical narrative, and thus, become a part of the best interactive live theatre in Los Angeles at Rockwell Table & Stage.
For more information about “The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Jurassic Park” at Rockwell Table & Stage, please visit rockwell-la.com