The Off-Broadway Musical is an endangered species. The perfect storm of escalating real estate rents, union expectations, and production costs render producing commercial Off-Broadway musicals a dubious venture at best. Enter Triassic Parq, The Musical, the 2010 Award-Winning FringeNYC show for Best Musical, eager to please and ready to challenge the conventional wisdom.
Triassic Parq, The Musical satirizes the Jurassic Park theme park ride while exploring the emerging sexuality of its dinosaurs. The plot involves a genetic frog mutation that allows some of the all-female dinosaur tribe to become male and experiment with their sexuality (one could call it a blend of Spring Awakening and Silence! The Musical).
Add an estranged dinosaur family plot-line, wacky costumes, gender-bending casting, lots of dropped f-bombs, and you end up with an old-school student production, a clever downtown diversion, and typical fringe fare. The problem with Triassic Parq, The Musical as a legit Off-Broadway production is that there are no characters we particularly care for or identify with. The challenge of a piece about a fictional reality is to mount it in a way that engages the audience emotionally and/or intellectually. Triassic Parq, The Musical does neither. It is the kind of theatre that evaporates as soon as it’s seen.
Acting the show’s high-camp sensibility with grace takes a skill level this acting ensemble can’t quite live up to. What they lack in acting chops, they make up for in enthusiasm and singing ability. Shelley Thomas and Claire Newman, as T-Rex 1 & 2, respectively, have some very funny unison bits, and Lee Seymour tries his best to sell the overly long running gag about Morgan Freeman, the narrator. Brandon Espinoza, as Mime-a-saurus, commits fully to hackneyed mime shtick and never lets the physical comedy get too tedious. Alex Wyse has the best songs and uses his strong vocal cords to full effect, but Wyse’s Velociprator of Innocence draws from his bag of tricks rather than create an original character from scratch. Ultimately, no one in the youthful cast seems able to transcend the stupidity of the material.
The unsung heroes of Triassic Parq, The Musical are musical director Zak Sandler as Pianosaurus, and Jeremy Yaddow as Percuss-a-don. The music never feels as slight as the show itself. Sandler even performs in costume and participates in some of the onstage shenanigans.
Kyle Mullins’ choreography is the other highlight of the show: always precise, the dance moves fit cleverly on the small SoHo Playhouse stage.
The writing team of Marshall Pailet, Bryce Norbitz, and Stephen Wargo have created a fringe show that should have stayed in the fringe. Even as a slight diversion, it goes lacking. The best lyrics can be reduced to clever song hooks, and the music is of the generic pop variety that seems to pass for composition these days. The book seems less interested in entertaining an audience than showing off its own cleverness. Pailet also directs the piece, keeping the 85-minute show moving at a clip, but he does so more by theatrical tricks than by getting to the heart of the material – assuming there’s a heart to be got at here.
The good news is the Off-Broadway Musical is not dead. The bad news is if future offerings continue along the lines of Triassic Parq, The Musical, the form, like the dinosaurs themselves, will most likely become extinct.
photos by Carol Rosegg
Triassic Parq, The Musical
AMAS Musical Theatre at The SoHo Playhouse in New York City
scheduled to end on August 5, 2012
for tickets, visit http://www.triassicparq.com/index.html