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Nerding Out And Walking With Dinosaurs

By Staff in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 29, 2010 6:00PM

Ok, you got us. We're giant nerds. What, the numerous diversions referencing Back to the Future and Star Wars didn't clue you in? So, of course when we had a chance to roll all the way out to Allstate Arena to catch the traveling show that is Walking With Dinosaurs, hell yes, we're going to do it. Primarily aimed at kids, Dinosaurs is nonetheless an entertaining spectacle that delivers exactly what you expect; it's like a monster truck rally except with a gigantic Tyrannosaurus Rex as the climactic figure rather than, say, Grave Digger. But the show doesn't sugarcoat its presentation or pander to the Fisher Price set. In the first five minutes of the show, the host focuses in on two freshly hatched baby dinosaurs only to have one meet a swift end when a Liliensternus snatches it away for dinner. There's also a few dinosaur fights, a pair of raptors snacking on the entrails of a dead dinosaur, and other intense moments in the show, proving the appeal goes beyond just young children (for the record, neither Kim or Marcus covered their eyes at any point. We swear).

The show roughly hour-and-forty-minute show is divided into two acts with a brief intermission and hosted by Huxley, a tour guide who ups the educational quotient with plenty of facts and figures about the various time periods and dinos that the show consists of. Some of the factual information - and jokes - probably go over the heads of younger children. But it's not so much about the content - which still exceeds typical entertainment by leaps and bounds - as it is about the dinos themselves. Built to the actual size of their real-life counterparts, the dinos are something to behold, even for those of us who have watched Jurassic Park more times than we can count. For each of the larger dinosaurs, who are moved via small, wheeled bases that for the most part go unnoticed, there are a pair of puppeteers and a driver devoted to controlling its motion. Whether its a battle of dominance between two Torosauruses or the adult Brachiosaurus that towers over the first deck of the arena and is at eye-level with those in the second deck, the reproduction is astounding. Even the smaller dinos, essentially men in suits, move in a lifelike manner. The rubber suits of Godzilla these ain't, a fact reinforced when the show's main attraction, the Tyrannosaurus Rex, thunders onto the arena floor.

But the main question: is it worth it? Yes. The sheer spectacle kept the children seated around us - all noise, crying, and screeching leading up to the start - enthralled for the entire show. And the same goes for their parents. Only once were we left with kind of 'meh' feeling: a brief segment at the beginning of act two features the flying Ornithocheirus but unless you're seated with a dead-on view of the creature in front of the gigantic video screen that comprises one end of the "stage" area of the arena floor, the effect leaves you a little flat. The show is, indeed a multi-media spectacle, relying on lighting effects, balloon props as plants, Huxley's ringmaster/tour guide personality, triumphant music, video screens, and the dinos themselves. The monstrosity and mystery of dinosaurs is timeless and appealing across age ranges - all of which were represented last night - and the spectacle of the show doesn't disappoint in hitting those two areas of interest square on the nose.

If anything, the biggest hindrance to the show is its location at Allstate Arena. There's no direct public transit route; even the nearest Metra stop drops you off over a half-mile from the Arena with a not-so-pedestrian friendly path. Still, if you have a way (and the monetary means) to make the trip, it's worth it. And if you don't have a child - or even niece/nephew - to take, it's still a good time.

Walking With Dinosaurs, Tonight and Friday July 30: 7 p.m., Saturday July 31st: 11 a.m., 3 p.m., and 7 p.m., Sunday August 1: 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., Allstate Arena, $19.50-$69.50 varying by date and time of show, via Ticketmaster