Leapin’ Lizards!

by Christian Carvajal

Sixty-six million years ago, give or take a few millennia, a chunk of rock six miles across slammed into the Gulf of Mexico at 12 miles per second, just off the Yucatán shoreline. It dug a hole 19 miles deep, raised a tsunami ring 300 feet high, incinerated forests worldwide and blasted trillions of tons of debris into the solar system. The resulting dust cloud blanketed the earth, blocked sunlight for over a decade and shattered food chains all over the planet. This, of course, was terrible news for megafauna, though it did clear a path for pint-sized mammals to thrive and diversify into creatures like, well, us. It denied those present-day mammals any encounter with the panoply of dinosaur species that once ruled the planet …

Until now.

Brought to you by Feld Entertainment, the company that produces Disney on Ice, Marvel Universe Live! and the Monster Jam truck show, Jurassic World Live Tour was created in collaboration with Universal Studios, so much so that its dinosaur designs were printed from the movies’ visual effects scans. The show runs through this weekend at accesso ShoWare Center in Kent, bringing the late Cretaceous back before a live, astonished, all-ages audience.

OLY ARTS was invited to a meet-and-greet with one of the show’s thespian Velociraptors. Make no mistake: These are not the killer turkeys from David Attenborough’s Prehistoric Planet (nor our actual, prehistoric planet). No, these are the genetically supercharged Frankenbeasts from the Jurassic movie franchise, so they’re the height of Chris Pratt, the length of a Ford Escort and built for lethal speed. In fact the raptor we met in ShoWare Center was among the least imposing creatures in the 97-minute show. Dino fans will face a Triceratops, two Stegosauruses, Rexy the tyrannosaur and Bumpy, a lovable Ankylosaurus from the Netflix series Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous among other kid-beloved species.

Three views (this plus two below) of a “live” Velociraptor. Note the thin patch in the flank, a “window” for the dinoteer.
A “live” Velociraptor.
Note the thin patch in the flank, a “window” for the dinoteer.

The live, arena show transports us to Isla Nublar, a Costa Rican island where the unwisely reopened Jurassic World theme park was recently trampled by runaway reptiles. Five intrepid paleontologists sneak onto the island to save dinosaur eggs from an impending volcanic eruption. That brings our heroes into conflict with InGen, the nefarious biotech company that resurrected the dinos and never met an OSHA rule it didn’t ignore.

Before we were introduced to a feisty Velociraptor, we talked to Sho Hunt, a Chicago-born “dinoteer” who performs the role of a troodontid to a prerecorded audio track of creature sound effects. “She is our main character dinosaur,” Hunt explained. “We’re introducing her to the franchise with this tour, and she is named Jeanie, short for ‘genius,’ because Troodons are the most intelligent dinosaur there was — even smarter than Velociraptors.” Jeanie is no glorified Barney costume. “The smallest dinosaur, Jeanie the Troodon that I wear, is 120 pounds.” Other costumes weight 30 pounds more. Hunt’s includes manual head and jaw controls, and she balances on two saurian-footed crutches for the secondary role of a baby Stegosaurus. “The show is designed to have dinoteers in the dinosaurs for about 10 minutes at a time,” she said. “In fact, Jeanie is actually played by three different people throughout the show, because she’s on stage for the majority of the show. So we’ll have three very athletic performers take on that role together.” We asked Hunt if she was a dinosaur buff before she auditioned. “I’ve loved T. rexes since I was very small,” she replied, “and now the fact that one is my coworker is kind of the best thing ever.”

“Dinoteer” Sho Hunt, alongside the “foot” of a baby Stegosaurus.

As for Rexy, Hunt continued, “We have two dinoteers who operate her from out in the audience, so she’s basically the biggest remote control car you’ve ever seen. We have one person who is driving her and one person who is animating her.” Rexy herself was “sleeping” backstage during the interview, but we did catch a glimpse of her through one of the show’s two upstage curtains; as in the movies, she is an 18-foot-tall marvel with a mass of four tons. Even the three raptor slashes on her neck, a souvenir of Jurassic Park’s Visitor Center climax, have been faithfully reproduced. The show’s ensemble, a hundred humans strong in over 20 trucks, has traveled all over North America and will terrorize Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena next weekend.

Mitchell Littlefield was cast in the show based on, not an acting rehearsal, but on his experience as a stunt motorcyclist. He uses those skills to portray an adversarial InGen agent. “We have three riders in the show, and I’m one of the riders,” he said. “We do practically the same show every night to keep everyone safe and not in the way of the (dinosaurs).” After months of training and a year of performing, Littlefield considers the show safe for both dinoteers and his fellow cyclists: “We haven’t had any issues.” Those dinos can be a complication, though: “The stage seems really big,” he said. “Once the T. rex gets out here, the stage gets very small very quick.”

“Jeanie” vs. InGen

Photo credits: Feld Entertainment and the writer

Jurassic World Live Tour

7 p.m. Friday, June 9 and Saturday, June 10;
11 a.m. and 3 p.m. June 10 and Sunday, June 11

accesso ShoWare Center,
625 W. James St., Kent

HOW MUCH$20-$85


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