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Published: Saturday, 5/8/2010

Huntington Center 65 million years ago

BY KIRK BAIRD
BLADE STAFF WRITER

After 65 million years of extinction, dinosaurs have made a roaring return.

The giant beasts stomped, lumbered, and soared through the Huntington Center last night in “Walking With Dinosaurs — The Arena Spectacular,” the first of a six-performance stop in Toledo that concludes tomorrow evening. More than 3,650 attended the show, a near sellout.

The touring production, which is a mixture of education and entertainment, is led by Huxley, the paleontologist, who acts as a tour guide through the primeval world. It includes stops in all three dinosaur periods: Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous.

Huxley (played by an actor) opens the show with some basic information about the creatures and the world that they inhabit, which is far different than our own. For one, they begin life on a single land mass called the Pangea, that later breaks up into the more familiar continents we know now.

Along the journey, Huxley drops some facts about the 10 dinosaur species in the show, ranging from giant herbivores like the brachiosaurus, to the most famous dinosaur, the formidable tyrannosaurus rex.

But what's the fun of paleontology without some gee-whiz effects to bring all of that to life? The $20 million Hollywood-style production comes as close to giving us a real-life Jurassic Park as we're likely to see in our lifetime, barring some major evolutions in technology.

These dinos aren't the stiff, robotic creatures you may recall from museum exhibits. These balletic beasts run gracefully around the arena floor as they chase and fight or flight for survival. Their skin ripples, their eyes blink, and their thunderous roars — especially the T-rex — will leave you in awe.

There aren't many adjectives to describe the thrill of watching a 39-foot brachiosaurus stomp through the arena, its head nearly touching the ceiling.

Or two male torosauruses using their three facial horns in an act of aggressive dominance to determine who will lead the herd.

Or a stegosaurs wildly swinging its spiked tail to fend off the deadly allosaurus.

And even a moment of mother-child bonding between an adult and young T-rex.

And all of it, amazingly, occasionally jaw-droppingly real.

This is the stuff of childhood imagination, when kids pick up toy dinosaurs and dream up fantastical scenarios involving the mammoth creatures.

Adding to the first-rate production are a concert-quality light show, three giant video screens, and a thunderous musical score by James Brett (10,000 BC and Aliens vs Predator) that evokes John Williams at his finest.

If there is one bone to pick with this dinosaur production, it is that it's too short. The entire show runs about 95 minutes, with a 20-minute intermission.

“Walking With Dinosaurs” is an ageless triumph with ageless appeal. Children will scream in delight at the dinosaurs, while adults will stare in disbelief, and by show's end, each will have learned a thing or two in the process.

“Walking With Dinosarus — The Arena Spectacular” will feature three shows today, and two shows on Sunday. Tickets range from $19.50 to $54.50, depending on the date of the performance. For more information, visit huntingtoncentertoledo.com or call 419-321-5007.

Contact Kirk Baird atkbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734.



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