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A Prehistoric Opening Night

Our Theatre Critic Amata Dramma writes

The long-awaited opening of Jurassic Coast: The Musical finally arrived on Tuesday night with all the fanfares, C-list celebrities and showbiz hokum we have come to expect of a big East Creech press night. The red carpet was out and the cameras were busy as every available Dorset cleavage quivered in the warm evening air and this, the most anticipated of all CONTRIK-69 delayed shows, finally opened its doors to the public.

The question on every perfectly puckered and beautifully-glossed lip [or at least on those able to form a question of any sort] was, surely, whether a stage-musical version of one of the nation's favourite and most iconic films could possibly live up to the expectations of fans still fanatically wedded to the original. Noted for its hi-tech sequences and jaw-dropping animatronics, the film relied so heavily on special effects that almost no one realised - then or now - that it was entirely lacking in certain departments: notably plot-line, human interest, narrative plausibility and credible dialogue. So just how would this work within the bounds of a procenium arch where these very elements [aka "theatre"] would appear to be the minimum requirement?

Former West End star Al Washt-Out with his dinosaur side-kick Marvin in the shopping mall sequence

The answer, if crowd reaction was anything to go by, was pretty well. To say it was enthusiastically received would be something of an understatement, despite the fact that it is - by common critical consensus - a copper-bottom, certified bummer of a show. [It is beyond irony that Parker Knoll’s similarly cinema-derived Back to the Futon which opened on Monday at The Adelphi in the Strand, Boscombe was, in contrast, an absolute peach of a show though it seems to have gone completely under the critical radar. Its premiere was attended by 1,500 well-mannered connoiseurs and is sold out for months, but received hardly a notice in the Dorset cultural press which was focussed instead on Ms Shelley-Lulette Sizemore's East Lulworth 50th birthday bash.]

Something oif a cinema icon, the £10 million stage show has a lot to live up to, not least an obligation to repay its production costs.

Jurassic Coast: The Musical - an everyday tale of fossil hunters - arrived in East Creech in much revamped form after failing badly during its initial out-of-town run two year's ago at the People's Palace, Sydling St Nicholas. Then a live animal show with prosthetically modified - and not wholly house-trained - giraffes it was an unwieldy beast which saw its human characters not so much interacting with prehistoric beasts as cleaning up after them. Unkind theatre professions dubbed it "the only show to be saved by CONTRIK-69" - a reference to its merciful early closure. Now redesigned as a high octane, fossil-fuelled animatronic spectacular, it is a riot of colour, sound effects and technical wizardry though still, the sentient will note, lacking a perceptible story. Still, faced with an audience who were clearly fans of the original - many had dressed as their favourite dinosaur [micropachycephalosaurus appeared to be the beast of choice] - it weathered early first night storms and might have weathered the second had it not been cancelled "for technical and pandemic related reasons"] immediately thereafter.

If theatre demands spectacle, then musical theatre requires, at the very least, a decent score and in this respect Jurassic Coast: The Musical gets a cautious thumbs-up. Opportunistically hanging a sequence of dance numbers on a dinosaur's name [the Veloci-Rap] seemed a tenuously thin thread on which to base an entire show, but the ensemble featuring 12 tap-dancing archaeornithomimus just about worked. "My Dino at the diner has a dinner date with me" was cute and the Extinction Waltz was close to touching, but, by the interval, with ensemble energy levels running low, the show become more than a little flat footed. There was some humour in the third number "Don't go into that toilet Brian, you'll get your head ripped off"] but by and large there were few truly uplifting moments and the duet "I’m a docus your a docus let’s dipple our docuses dear" was hardly a strong Act I closer.

If Act II was better, that was largely because it was shorter.

Jurassic Coast: The Musical opens to the public again on Thursday [cast availability and CONTRIK-69 compliance permitting]. It's not exactly a stinker - though you would be well-advised to wear a mask.

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