If writers of the 20th century could be categorized by the war they lived through, today’s scribes might be grouped by the blockbuster movie that came out when they were about 7. The silly, raunchy, sweet “Triassic Parq: The Musical,” at Chance Theater in Anaheim Hills suggests that the long-ascendant “Star Wars” generation is passing the torch to artists shaped by the films of the 1990s. (I am eagerly awaiting “Gump: The Musical," "Sixth Sense: The Musical," maybe even "Twister: The Musical.")
This West Coast premiere is directed by Marshall Pailet, the recent Yale graduate who co-wrote “Triassic Parq” (they couldn’t call it “Jurassic Park” without risking a lawsuit, the performers explain in song) with Bryce Norbitz and Steve Wargo. He also composed its score. The musical, which debuted at the New York International Fringe Festival in 2010, re-imagines the premise of the Crichton novel/Spielberg film — an amusement park featuring genetically engineered dinosaurs — from the dinosaurs' point of view.
A narrator, who introduces herself as Morgan Freeman (the versatile if hammy Camryn Zelinger), presents the important exposition. (For this movie generation, Freeman's "raspy yet soothing" voice narrated everything.)
The dinosaurs were created all female so they wouldn't breed, but having a small percentage of frog DNA means that they can switch genders. The community of puzzled, earnestly girly creatures behind the electrified fence is thrown into turmoil when a T. rex (the lovely Kellie Spill) develops a mysterious new appendage and a corresponding compulsion to use it on a wide-eyed young velociraptor (Keaton Williams).
The ensuing plot is both bracingly dirty (Don't bring the kids!) and, while still clunky in some places and slack in others, surprisingly poignant.
Courting laughter with broad physical comedy (Alex Bueno particularly shines in her wordless roles), the performers convey the pathos in the dinosaurs' struggles to find friendship and love from the prisons of their enormous, hungry, lethal bodies.
When Caitlin the T. rex (Micaela Martinez) roars out her jealousy, the sound seems to contain the pain of every scorned lover since evolution began. The show's many charms include playful costumes (by Anthony Tran), vigorous choreography (by Kelly Todd) and the lithe, fearless cast.
"Triassic Parq: The Musical," Chance Theater, 5552 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim Hills. 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends Feb. 24. $30-$45. (714) 777-3033 or www.chancetheater.com. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.
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