Dinosaurs have captivated human imagination since the first fossils were found. Modern cinema has created lifelike creatures from imagination, and now Jurassic World Live Tour brings dinosaurs to life right before your very eyes.
Part of an almost year-long tour, Jurassic World Live Tour will be at Bridgeport’s Webster Arena from Thursday, March 5 to Sunday, March 8. Using life-size dinosaur puppets, the just-under-two-hour show tells a story within the Jurassic Park film universe of paleontologist Dr. Kate Walker and her unique relationship with Genie, short for Genius, an especially precocious troodon. The two become separated and have to find their way back to each other.
Online reviews rave about the experience and audiences agree there is something in the experience for all ages.
“My mother had to explain to me that that probably wasn’t a practical job since dinosaurs are extinct.”
The stop in Bridgeport is a homecoming of sorts for one of the puppeteers, or “dino-teers,” if you will. Brittaney Talbot once called Connecticut home through early childhood (her parents have since settled in Newtown) and then as a college student at the University of Connecticut (class of ’09) where she majored in—what else?—puppetry. UConn, if you didn’t know, is one of the premier puppetry schools in the nation.
“I’m very fortunate to have studied puppetry at UConn,” said Talbot. “A lot of people come to it from different avenues, I just happened to be studying it and fell in love.”
One of her first loves, however, was paleontology.
“I remember telling my mom as a child that I wanted to be a paleontologist because I thought they were veterinarians for dinosaurs,” laughed Talbot. “My mother had to explain to me that that probably wasn’t a practical job since dinosaurs are extinct.”
The would-be dinosaur doctor believes there’s a connection between puppetry and paleontology, nevertheless.
“What’s great about paleontology and puppets is that they both have to piece things together and bring something alive that you can only imagine.”
“I was lucky that I got to be the pioneer on the dinosaurs.”
While working in Los Angeles, Talbot managed to get in on the ground floor as Jurassic World Live Tour was taking shape, helping those creating the puppets by trying them on and seeing how they felt and how they could move.
“I was involved in Jurassic World Live Tour before any other casting or show elements solidified,” added Talbot. “I was lucky that I got to be the pioneer on the dinosaurs.”
Fortunate to get the specifications of the dinosaurs used in the Jurassic World films, the show created life-size puppets of the beloved and in some cases feared film characters. The Tyrannosaurus Rex, it’s worth noting, is built to its (or her, in this case), real-life 40-foot-long size and takes two to control: one to drive and maneuver the puppet, the other—who happens to be Talbot—to manipulate the T-Rex to present the fearsome dinosaur the audience expects.
“When I manipulate the T-Rex I get two different joysticks that move independently,” explained Talbot. “Depending on how I’m moving, I’m moving the head, eyes, mouth, tail, and claws. It’s two people with 30 separate jobs!”
T-Rex isn’t Talbot's only puppet in the show. She is Genie, the inquisitive troodon and a baby stegosaurus, too, among others.
The puppets are quite heavy, ranging between 100 and 140 pounds and the mechanical elements of drivable puppets are huge when taken into consideration with cast members running among them executing story-dictated stunts. Talbot stresses, the puppets are not mascots, much more goes into them then creating a rubber suit.
“Safety is the number 1 priority for cast, crew, and audience—always, always, always,” emphasized Talbot. “We’ve rehearsed so much. I never worry, but I’m glad we take it seriously.”
"Any scariness is tempered with lots of heartfelt and funny moments."
Like a mother asked to pick her favorite child, Talbot refuses to name the dinosaur she prefers to puppet.
“I can’t choose a favorite,” said Talbot. “Each is so unique and special. I’ve had to hone all my puppet skills.
“What’s so fun for me is that every puppet has a completely unique personality,” continued Talbot. “Genie is inquisitive and lively, and the baby stegosaurus is sweet but more cautious. It involves completely different types of movement. The T-rex is powerful, deliberate and protective of her territory—I get to play all these different things. I’m in love with puppetry as an art!”
This is Talbot’s first time on tour and aside from learning “to cook the most amazing things in a microwave,” she praises her fellow cast and crew with creating a great experience.
“I’ve made 30 new friends,” said Talbot. “It’s been so positive. People think performers are cut-throat, but we’re so supportive and want the best for each other—then we’ll go out and beach each other up with big smiles.”
Rehearsals for the show started in July of last year and the tour kicked off in September.
“The show is really immersive,” explained Talbot. “Audience members can feel the sound in their chests as T-Rex comes out.
It may be loud at times and have dinosaurs fighting and chasing the human characters, but it’s still a show for all ages.
“We all know dinosaurs are extinct and puppets aren’t alive,” said Talbot. “As performers, we tell the story and the audience comes along with us. Any scariness is tempered with lots of heartfelt and funny moments. There’s something for everyone. If you’re a Jurassic Park fan, you’ll love this show!”