by DICK KEREKES
The biggest performers ever to come to Jacksonville are now appearing at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial through Sunday, November 30th at 1 PM. You ask bigger than Elvis, Elton John, Frank Sinatra, or any of the long lists of other famous stars who have appeared in the River City? Well, maybe not as famous, but certainly bigger in size. I mean 30 feet long and 40 feet high is BIG. You will see a dozen or so life-size, animatronic dinosaurs now on view in a special FCCJ presentation of Walking With Dinosaurs that is truly unique.
The only human in the show is a paleontologist /narrator who walks around the arena floor giving us a lot of information about dinosaurs and how our planet has changed through the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods. Sound too much like school? It is really not, because of the narrator’s use of humor, and commanding on-stage presence. And even the toddlers I saw in the audience were in awe of what they were seeing.
The dinosaurs moved on and off for different periods of time by coming in through a set of large teeth at one end of the stage. Some of the huge creations are run by remote control, with the smaller species controlled by performers in elaborate costumes. There are two large video screens that broadcast close ups of the smaller dinosaurs and the narrator and special props that are used.
The dinosaurs do some simulated fighting in the battle for the survival of the fittest and they growl and roar a lot and very loudly I might add.
I had a hard time keeping track of the names of the various species I saw, and I resisted springing for the $20.00 program available all over the place. I will drop a few names on you, like Stegosaurus, Ankylosaurus, Allosaurus and the all time favorite, Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The show runs about 90 minutes with a 20 minute intermission. Splitting it into two parts helps the attention span of the younger crowd and also lets the audience buy items – food and souvenirs – during the break.
It is a great light and sound show with lots of wonderful visuals like rain, fog, snow, and fire. The original music by composer James Brett is fabulous and really sets the mood. The soundtrack CD is available at the concession stands, if you want to take the experience home.
My only criticism of the show would be the appearance of the only flying creature, the Ornithocheirus, who dropped down from the ceiling on wires and just seemed to linger in the air doing very little. The video screen showed scenes that gave the impression of flying over the country side.
All in all it was a delightful experience, very educational and thought provoking. The dinosaurs ruled the earth for 170,000 million years, a very long time compared to the brief 200,000 years Homo sapiens (that’s us!) has been in charge. The Ice Age wiped out the dinosaurs, so maybe global warming is notice from the planet that it will be time for a change of occupancy in another thousand million years or so.
Jacksonville is fortunate to have WALKING WITH DINOSAURS-THE LIVE EXPERIENCE visit our city and this may be the only chance you will have to see this inspiring show. It would make a great, early Christmas present for youngsters six and above.
Call 632-3211 to make reservations. Tickets range in price from $20.50 to $65.50.
Walking With Dinosaurs
by DICK KEREKES