Even though my son is almost eight-years-old, he still loves dinosaurs. He's been obsessed with them ever since he was little, and over the years we've explored every major dino-themed attraction near NYC, from Field Station: Dinosaurs in Secaucus, New Jersey to the Dinosaur Place in Oakdale, Connecticut to countless hours spent running around the American Museum of Natural History. So when I heard that the prehistoric creatures would be taking over the New Victory Theater in Erth's Dinosaur Zoo, I knew we had to go.
Created by Erth, an innovative Australian puppet troupe, Dinosaur Zoo isn't traditional theater. There is no plot or characters. Instead, it's equal parts animal encounter, puppet performance, petting zoo (yes, you get to meet these dinos up close!) and cursory lecture about the history of these extinct beasts. If you've got a child who can't get enough of dinosaurs, Erth's Dinosaur Zoo, which only plays through Sunday, January 27, is an experience you won't want to miss. But read on for some important information about the show, including why you should probably think twice before bringing your preschooler, no matter how much he loves his T.rex.
Unlike Walking with Dinosaurs, the awesome stadium spectacle which played Madison Square Garden a few years back, Erth's Dinosaur Zoo is an intimate hour-long show that transports audiences to the prehistoric Australian outback where you meet extremely realistic dinosaurs. The creatures are actually incredibly detailed wearable puppets that move, roar and even blink. If you visited Field Station: Dinosaurs last year, then you may have seen Erth's work before, since members of the company performed in the park's educational mini-performances.
In Dinosaur Zoo, a dino wrangler, played by Erth's artistic director, Scott Wright, introduces kids to a baby Minmi Paravertebra, a huge flying Meganeura, a pair of Leaellynasaura, and giant carnivores Australovenator Wintonensis and the T.rex, who (slowly) fight over food. In between, Wright, who's easygoing and funny, delivers easily digestible factoids about the creatures and the Mesozoic age, and engages in bits of audience participation.
At points in the show, the dinos' faces are projected onto a giant screen so even folks up in the balcony will be able to get a good look at how amazing these puppets look. But the highlight for most kids will be the post-show meet and greet, where you can pet and pose with a few of the dinosaurs from the show. Seeing them up close is pretty intimidating—even my second grader was a bit scared. As he told me, "I know they aren't real but up close they still look like real!"
In light of this, I wouldn't suggest taking toddlers, even if they love dinosaurs. The New Victory recommends the show for children ages 6 and up and I agree. Even if your child understands that the dinos are just puppets, it's easy to get caught up in the spectacle, especially when the big ones roar and fight. That said, jaded tweens might find it a bit boring as not that much happens. So the sweet spot seems to be ages 6 to 8.
Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo is playing at the New Victory Theater through Sunday, January 27. Tickets are $14-$38. Visit the website for the complete schedule.