Jurassic Park, a cinematic achievement in its own right, is the sort of film best enjoyed at any time because dinosaurs are endlessly entertaining and Laura Dern’s acting deserves a retroactive Oscar (her win for Marriage Story does not do her entire body of work justice). The appeal of Jurassic Park and its attendant spinoffs, sequels, and strange world extensions are, of course, the dinosaurs. They were so large! So lifelike. So vicious. Imagining what it would’ve been like to be there at Jurassic Park is a fun exercise, but even more entertaining is Jurassic World Live, an immersive theater experience intended for children, but best enjoyed by adults, sitting front row, eating pretzels and drinking a fountain soda on a cold Friday evening in Brooklyn at Barclays Center—home of the Brooklyn Nets and, for one night, six or so dinosaurs.
It’s safe to say that neither one of us knew what to expect from our experience, but I feel confident in saying that we got exactly what we came for.
Megan: I had no intention of seeing Jurassic World Live because I missed the press preview and then promptly forgot that it was even happening. But when you offered me the extra ticket to attend this event, I remember agreeing with something approaching gusto. I love Jurassic Park, but I love spectacle more; Jurassic World Live offered spectacle, and it also offered the promise of being up close and personal with “dinosaurs.” Seemed like a nice way to spend a Friday evening, in the company of good friends, hundreds of children, and a bunch of working actors who might have been having the time of their life.
Tell me one thing, though: why on Earth did you get tickets for this in the first place?
Rich: I really enjoy the kinds of shows you see at theme parks: Your Indiana Jones™ Epic Stunt Spectacular!, your (now sadly canceled) Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue. I like spectacle, I like cheese, and I like the experience of theatre with an atmosphere laid back enough to allow me to eat a soft pretzel and comment on what is unfurling before me. I had a feeling the Jurassic World Live tour would provide this, and oh it did. That made me glad.
What I didn’t realize was that it would involve a cast of performers whose rather extensive dialogue was all prerecorded, which meant the entire show was lip-synced.
There was a rather convoluted plot that I was never quite sure I was understanding because it was so… stupid? A raptor named Jeannie was taken from Jurassic World to the chagrin of several of the park’s workers, including a prototypical strong woman, who had a special bond with the dino, a la Chris Pratt’s character in the film series. Here she is kicking butt:
The workers had to rescue Jeannie and get her back to Jurassic World to reunite her with her eggs because... she had a strong hankering to be a mom? If we’re being honest, the dino did NOT remember those eggs after being hoisted over an ocean and placed in foreign territory, but whatever. I’ll allow it. It was unclear to me when in the Jurassic World timeline this was supposed to take place—I’m assuming some time between the first JW movie and second, but maybe we missed the exposition, as we were late sitting down. The show started at seven o’clock sharp, the time on the tickets. I’ve never seen that happen before. Dinos wait for no one.
Did I get all this right? What were your impressions?
Megan: Your guess is as good as mine because I feel it is imperative to note that the edible I had consumed prior to this event enhanced my enjoyment but not my comprehension. Jeannie the dinosaur and her handler (according to my notes, “woman in white shirt”) had a relationship that to me, felt untoward. Your recollection of the eggs and Jeannie’s maternal instinct being the engine that drove this rickety jalopy towards the finish line is correct, but what I’d like to know is why. From where I sat, Jeannie maybe wanted to relish in the freedom afforded to her by being away from her eggs! Who knows what she wants, and furthermore, let’s not assume anything. Yes, the dinosaur was wearing a tiara of sorts that transmitted her emotional state to some big screen somewhere, and yes, this is all fake. But please do not serve me this motherhood propaganda when all I want to see are dinosaurs powered by humans sprinting around a basketball arena causing havoc.
My point is that the plot is superfluous. The actors were having the time of their lives. I think we should talk about the dinosaurs. I have never laughed so hard in my entire life.
Rich: Same, but I think it’s important to point out that the Jurassic World workers were clued into Jeannie’s maternal instinct because of her anguished reaction upon seeing a bioluminescent stegosaurus mother and child pair in... wherever they took her that wasn’t Jurassic World. I think it was somewhere in South America.
I guess it’s not super surprising that the plot could have been devised by an actual dinosaur (no shade, but they were here for about 100 million years and, to our knowledge, did not advance technologically whatsoever). But I was surprised by the shoddiness of the production. You could make out quite clearly the legs (and, not to be rude, but butts) of the humans in the raptor suits. The larger beasts were all on wheeled platforms?
At least the T. Rex had some expression in her face (I thought she looked pretty true to her cinematic form, actually).
Overall, though, Jurassic World Live tour did not give me the quality I expect from the Jurassic Park property, but you know what? The showing seams just made it more enjoyable? It was goofy top to bottom.
Megan: My GOD, the best part about it was how shoddy it was! The human beings inside the raptor suits were my favorite part of the entire show! The legs, their butts, their waddle—all of it so beautiful, more than I could’ve ever imagined. Every time a dinosaur ran past our (very good) seats, I hoped to feel some combination of thrill and existential terror, but all that happened was laughter. Joyous laughter. Screaming, riotous laughter, because I didn’t know what else to do!
Aside from the dinosaurs, though, who were clearly the stars, I feel it is imperative we discuss the actors, all of whom appeared to be having a real time. The plot was intercut with a lot of “action” sequences that felt like a weird sort of modern dance performance with some elements of wrestling and a dash of football: a lot of highly choreographed movements intended to look good enough for the cheap seats but also still resonate for those lucky enough to be up close and personal.
Every surface around the stage was padded because at any moment, an actor would fling themselves on a pile of boulders and bounce back to deliver a roundhouse kick in the general vicinity of an “enemy.” I guess I was expecting two hours of dinosaurs, but I must say that the first act, which was mostly shaky exposition, didn’t give me much hope for what was to come, but I think we got a fun taste of the drama that was about to unfold: the demonstration of the merch during the intermission between Acts 1 and 2. A woman was walking through the audience selling what appeared to be large discs. We speculated that they were shields, but they turned out to be something akin to a Frisbee. “He’s doing a demonstration,” she said to us, indicating that a man would emerge from the bowels of Barclays and show us what’s up.
How nice to stumble upon an unexpected bit of theatre, when that man threw all those Frisbees for sale into the air with the confidence of a teen who finds himself very good at the devil’s sticks. He threw five at one point and my heart dropped out of my chest and into my knees. I have never been more stressed in my entire life. When he successfully caught all five the second time around, I screamed with glee. Sure, I was extremely high, but also, I was thrilled.
Rich: The entire arena lit up! Catching five of those dino discs was at least as exciting as the dinosaurs themselves! A close second: When one of the bad guys got “snatched” by a pterodactyl.
Megan: The pterodactyl snatching that man up and dragging him to the rafters is actually my favorite thing that happened, second only to the human legs in the raptor bodies and the way their little arms dangled ineffectively as they ran.
Rich: Did we mention there were flamethrowers? There were flamethrowers. An interesting thing about flamethrowers is that even from what must have been half a football field away, you can really feel the heat!
There was also a love story between “woman in white shirt” and... I don’t know, a scientist? They got together at the end? Speaking of the end, when Jeannie was (spoiler alert!) at last reunited with her eggs, each of the Jurassic World workers said their own goodbye to her. The small girl said she knew this dino would be a great mom. “You’re strong, smart, brave, and the best dinosaur ever,” she added, which Megan, is exactly what I think of you.
And then Jeannie’s eggs hatched!!! And inside were smaller Jeannies whose legs were attached to wheel apparatuses. They looked like they were on unicycles. They came out like circus animals and didn’t even need training—perfect specimens for a night at the Barclays Center. They were born entertainers. Life found a way!