Kids of all ages are in for a thrill when Feld Entertainment, those folks behind the big arena show extravaganzas, resurrects dinosaurs and adds their own stamp to the “Jurassic World” film franchise. “Jurassic World Live” takes audiences on an immersive journey through the dense jungles of Isla Nubar, so familiar to fans of the films, at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum, March 12-15, and March 19-22.
The spectacle features a bevy of mechanical and ‘dino-teer’-driven dinosaurs. It’s a lively and life-like bunch of dinosaurs — impressive in size, personality and mobility — as you are likely to have ever set eyes upon.
The show stars Madison Embrey as Dr. Kate Walker, a scientist who has created a decoder that makes it possible to communicate with dinosaurs, and to understand their thoughts, emotions and feelings. She is in the midst of developmental experiments using the device with a ‘Troodon’ dinosaur named Jeanie (Adair Moran); the two seem to be a happy experimental “couple “until some bad guys catch wind of what’s going on and attempt to steal the technology, weaponize dinosaurs and use them for nefarious purposes.
There are chases and fight scenes and thrills and spills before Kate and Jeanie — and the world — are made safe from the criminals.
According to NBCUniversal, the show came about because fans indicated that they want more ways to experience “Jurassic World,” particularly interactive ways. “The thrilling action and larger-than-life experience of this live arena tour gives them the opportunity to engage in an all new and exciting way,” says Vince Klaseus, President, Universal Brand Development.
That’s where Feld Entertainment came in. The Feld team was asked if they were interested in creating a live show. A storyline was developed that worked for both parties, and Feld was off and running.
Now the production is in the middle of a two-year national tour, which means shifting huge mechanical dinosaurs and arena-quality special effects around the country.
“It takes 28 truck trailers, traveling from city to city, to get this done,” Adrian Baez, the production’s tour director, says. “Two days of loading in, the drive time, then the “load-out,” which takes five and a half hours. We travel with a full cast and animatronics team, and over 20 dinosaurs. We load them into crates and house them. The T-Rex has to go into two truck trailers to move him.”
That T-Rex is 40 feet long, by the way, and has to be operated by remote control. As for the rest of the dinosaur characters (expect iconic dinosaurs including Blue the Raptor, Triceratops, and lots of Pteranodons), they’re operated by ‘dino-teers’ inside the dinosaur models.
Jeanie’s one of them.
The green dinosaur with black stripes and white outlines on the top of her back, neck, head, and tail is played by Moran, a petite five-foot New Yorker who has been with Feld for two years and loves her role as Dr Kate Walker’s lizardy soulmate.
“Jeanie is really intelligent, communicates well, and helps the heroes win the fight against the bag guys,” says Moran. “Troodons are predators, but she has trust for the doctor. Other people might have to watch out for her, of course!”
The Troodon is also 140 pounds with a 10 foot tail. That means for Moran, learning the role was more than just understanding her character, but the physical demands of making her puppet work. For each show, she dons the entire Troodon head to toe, using her own leg-power to move the creature around, and works its “expressions”inside a complicated cockpit by operating a panel of controllers (that includes buttons, levers and other devices) to make Jeanie’s eyes, mouth, neck and head move.
“That was a long process,” Moran admits. “There was a lot of physical training involved just to be able to carry 140 pounds of dinosaur on your back.”
Then there’s the whole question of acting; how to tell Jeanie’s feelings through movements and reactions. How does she look when she’s sad? How does she move when she’s surprised? “Her facial expressions, her head movements, the way her body responds, all have to contribute to telling her part of the story,” adds Moran.
“Jurassic World Live” features a strong female lead and a storyline that fits neatly into the “Jurassic World” movie canon, which is currently in production with its third installment, scheduled for release to theaters in June 2021. By all accounts this is a lively show, featuring the films’ unmistakable score, with plenty of special effects to make an impact, but still recommended for even the youngest fans.
Part of the reason the show appeals to all ages is that there’s plenty of humor in it, consistent with the comedic elements built into all the Jurassic movies.
But perhaps most important, according to the creative team, what makes the experience more than just a spectacle is the way it pulls on the heartstrings of the audience, based on the relationship between Dr Walker and her beloved Troodon.
“There’s a lot to this show that is just plain caring, emotional and heartwarming,” concludes Baez. “We don’t give away the plotline, but there’s a strong bond between Kate and Jeanie. At the very end, when they are saying their goodbyes — if you leave without a tear in your eye, I’ll be very surprised.”
See “Jurassic World Live” at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, Thursday through Sunday, March 12-15 and March 19-22. Times vary. Tickets start at $15; available at www.jurassicworldlivetour.com or www.ticketmaster.com, (800) 745-3000 or at the Nassau Coliseum box office.