It wouldn’t be a new year in LA without a new entry in the UMPO (Unauthorized Musical Parody Of) series. Their take on Jurassic Park, which opens at Rockwell Table & Stage this weekend, is another home run. Don’t let the word “parody” fool you—these shows very much celebrate the source material, as well as popular music, much of which is selected from around the time of the movie’s release. It is also a celebration of musical theater talent in LA, and Jurassic Park is full of actors and actresses who will be familiar to fans of this series.
Jurassic Park, of course, is a 1993 film that inspired a franchise that’s still producing new blockbusters today. It tells the story of Grant (Keir Kirkegaard), a paleontologist, Ellie (Lesley McKinnell), a paleobotanist, and Ian Malcolm (Michael Thomas Grant), a mathematician referred to here only as “Goldblum” after Jeff Goldblum, who played him in the movie, who are invited to the Jurassic Park theme park on Isla Nubar. They have been invited by the park’s creator, Hammond (Owain Rhys Davies), who needs to prove to the park’s investors and lawyer, Gennaro (E.K. Dagenfield), that it is safe after a handler was killed by a velociraptor. It becomes quickly apparent that the dinosaurs living in the park are not nearly as under control as Hammond claims. A tropical storm hits the island and Nedry (also E.K. Dagenfield) deactivates the park’s security system so he can steal a valuable dinosaur embryo on a bribe from a competing corporation. As dinosaurs escape and Dr. Arnold (Dedrick Bonner), the park’s chief engineer, struggles to reboot the park’s systems, Ellie, Grant, and Goldblum are left fighting for survival along with Hammond’s grandchildren, Tim (Amanda Kruger) and Lex (Lana McKissack).
In a special treat for Rockwell enthusiasts, Kate Pazakis, creator of the UMPO series and executive producer and writer of this parody, is also appearing onstage, showing off her impressive pipes as the T-Rex. She gets to belt out “Bring Me to Life” by Evanescence during the climactic battle with the raptors, and Kesha’s “Dinosaur” and Hall & Oates’s “Maneater” are also appropriately used.
As usual, the production makes use of the entire space at Rockwell, even recruiting an audience member to play the Brachiosaurus. A running joke is made of Jeff Goldblum’s long-standing regular gig playing jazz music at Rockwell, with Thomas Grant often pausing the action to pass out fliers. The dinosaurs mark the series’ best production value to date, and as usual, the performers are self-aware in poking fun at their limitations—occasionally, Pazakis appears wearing only a motion capture suit, encouraging the audience to use their imagination when it comes to the dinosaurs.
The cast is excellent, particularly Thomas Grant and McKinnell. Thomas Grant, whom I last saw as Aaron Samuels in UMPO Mean Gurlz, gets arguably the most fun role, getting to ham it up as his shirt gradually gets more and more unbuttoned. McKinnell, who just finished playing Kate McCallister in UMPO Home Alone, has a phenomenal voice that she got to show off on Pink’s “What About Us,” and I hope to see her in many of these shows in the future. There was also a hilarious sequence set to Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It” in which Ellie is working to restore power to the electrical grid.
It seems that with each production, the UMPO series only gets stronger and more focused. The half-hearted framing devices of the early musical parodies wherein we’d enter the story via a new character and their friends going down a wormhole, or reenacting a favorite movie in their basement, seem to have thankfully gone by the wayside, and the music selections just get more and more inspired. Jurassic Park also features The Weather Girls’s “It’s Raining Men,” Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor,” Sia’s “Alive,” and even “The Electric Slide.” Overall, I cannot recommend UMPO Jurassic Park highly enough for a fun night out that is sure to brighten your week as much as it brightened mine. I mean, when was the last time you watched two velociraptors chasing some “children” around a restaurant in Los Feliz?
The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Jurassic Park runs through April 28th at Rockwell Table & Stage. Performances are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights with an afternoon brunch show on Sundays. Tickets range from $34 to $64 and can be purchased here. The running time is just under two hours, including one intermission. Please note that Rockwell policy also requires a 2 item minimum purchase of food and/or drinks per person, and these items can be enjoyed during the performance. UMPO shows are often double cast, so the performers mentioned in this review will not appear on all dates. For more information about this show and upcoming shows, follow @umposeries on social media.