Clever Girl: Squabbalogic’s Triassic Parq

In an expertly-timed coincidence, Squabbalogic’s second show for 2015 is the Australian premiere of the 2010 Off-Broadway musical-comedy parody Triassic Parq. Inspired by Steven Spielberg’s beloved 1993 film, Triassic Parq takes the idea of the dinosaurs running amok in Jurassic Park and tries to work out why. Directed by Jay James-Moody, and staged in the Seymour Centre’s Reginald theatre, we are given front-row seats to roaring, dancing, sex-changing, scientifically-inquisitive dinosaurs. Dinosaurs that sing and dance. Oh yes.

Staged with Squabbalogic’s own brand of theatrical inventiveness, Triassic Parq features a set by Neil Shotter which is reminiscent of the iconic T-Rex pit, complete with fence, ferns, goats, and 10,000 volts of electricity. Under Mikey Rice’s sharp and precise lighting, Elizabeth Franklin’s rock-grunge costumes (and dinosaur feet!) are the perfect attire for velociraptors with attitude and sex-changing tyrannosaurs, while Jessica James-Moody’s sound design is at times scary and theatre-shaking; the dinosaur roars phenomenally well-timed (well-mimed?) by the cast. The music – almost entirely through-composed by Marshall Pailet – is performed by a four-piece band with verve and energy, and keeps the show moving. (Film music aficionados will be pleased to know that John Williams’ memorable theme makes an (approximate) appearance.) Bryce Norbitz, Steve Wargo, and Pailet’s lyrics are clever and smart, take note of the theatrical limitations of both budget and scale of the task ahead of them, and joyfully revel in its absurdity. Jay James-Moody directs with energy and a deliberate seriousness, and never lets the silliness and impossibility of the set-up overwhelm his intention to “present an eclectic range of … the best new musicals and reinterpretations … of outstanding musical theatre.” This Triassic Parq works as well as it does because it is played entirely straight – no mean feat when there are such songs as ‘Dick Fix’ and ‘Hello, Little Goat,’ not to mention the upbeat finale, ‘We Are Dinosaurs.’
The cast of seven all contribute to the success of James-Moody’s straight-faced production while having an inordinate amount of fun. As the Velociraptor of Innocence (the show’s protagonist), Rob Johnson more than capably carries the show, but his voice occasionally is overwhelmed by the band. The two tyrannosaurs – T-Rex 1 (Monique Sallé) and T-Rex 2 (Adèle Parkinson) – are a fearsomely-matched duo who add many memorable moments to the proceedings; Parkinson’s rendition of ‘Dick Fix’ is particularly significant in this regard, while Sallé’s dinosaur walk is almost spot-on. The white-faced Mimeosaurus (Crystal Hegedis), while almost entirely silent, makes full use of her character’s nature and creates many elaborate mimes to explain events which happen off-stage. Blake Erickson’s Morgan Freeman is almost pitch-perfect (it’s a shame we don’t get more), while his Velociraptor of Faith is perhaps not as strong as it could be. Keira Daley’s Velociraptor of Science is loud and precocious; her rendition of ‘Science’ is quite wonderful, although her reveal in ‘Mama’ is hilariously alarming. Musical director Mark Chamberlain makes an on-stage appearance as the Pianosaurus, contributing pithy lines as appropriate.

While the show’s pacing lags slightly two-thirds of the way, through, it is small beef in this otherwise ridiculous and entertaining ninety-minute production. While it may not be as acclaimed or significant as other musicals in Squabbalogic’s stable, sometimes rules – like the electric fence – need to be broken, and I’m more than happy to have seen this musical in its Australian premiere season. Although musical purists might dismiss this as a mere trifle, it is the perfect antidote to the mega-budget extravaganza romping through the megaplexes.

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