John Williams’ Jurassic Park At The Hollywood Bowl Was Dino-rific
HOLLYWOOD, CA – There are few experiences as magical as seeing a movie at the Hollywood Bowl while the Los Angeles Philharmonic plays a John Williams’ score. In the latest installment of what has become a summer tradition for the LA Phil, this year’s production was Jurassic Park — the glorious 1993 dino classic, not one of the lesser sequels.
To get the audience in the spirit, the venue was staged with kitschy decor. Jurassic Park-themed Jeeps lined the main entry plaza — with dinos at the wheel, of course. Massive dino footprints led up the walkway. Dinosaur-themed food was available for sale, apparently including cupcakes that we were sadly too late to purchase. The “bucket of bones” BBQ ribs ran a cool $21, but I had visions of devouring them as the dinos snacked on the hapless fictional theme park employees.
One of my favorite parts of the evening was the collaboration with the Natural History Museum. The “Ask a Paleontologist” booth featured bones, footprints, and some awesome stuffed animal dinos. It seemed like the official Bowl store had gone less all-in on the theme this year, so the museum booth filled the need for dino-rific information and kitsch.
At first, it seemed like there were fewer people dressed up than is typical for John Williams movie nights. Pretty soon, we realized the issue was that the characters wear essentially “normal” clothes. Unless you could see a group of people together, it was often hard to spot a costume. Button-down shirts and khakis were both streetwear and costumes, and it was also hard to discern a John Hammond hat from an everyday look.
There were some fabulous children’s safari gear outfits, but sadly, there is a shocking lack of dinosaur-themed clothing for sale anywhere for people over the age of 10. That certainly contributed to the costume problem. Although there were a decent amount of t-shirts with the movie logo, it was nothing like at prior years’ programs. The evening was a blast overall, but this aspect of it meant that it did not have the same community feel that you experience at a Star Wars or Harry Potter movie with a huge, costume-loving Fandom.
And the music? Glorious, of course. There is a reason that practically every orchestral movie soundtrack you can remember is from John Williams. His music becomes a character and breathes another life into the films. It makes your heart race and soar.
Adding the power of a full live orchestra raises it to an entirely different level. At the Bowl, you are completely immersed in the film as the music washes over you. I cannot adequately describe the power of the orchestra on these evenings. While the Philharmonic as a whole is a joy, the brass section stole the show. When they played the initial reveal of Isla Nublar from the air, it made the audience gasp and roar.
Conductor David Newman has made an art of these performances. When audiences are this familiar with a movie and a soundtrack, precision is the key. Newman is the master of his art — not a note is out of place, regardless of the wild applause from the crowd.
Hollywood Bowl movie nights are interactive. Fans cheered loudly as each character first appeared on screen, including in this case each species of dinosaur. The biggest applause was, unsurprisingly, for Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm, who chews through more scenery than the T-Rex. His “life finds a way” inspired nearly as many cheers as the moment when the T-Rex ate the lawyer on the toilet.
I realized at intermission that I hadn’t been breathing. Regardless of how many times you have seen a film or whether you know exactly what is coming next, the live orchestration adds a sense of urgency. The audience is bathed in the music to the point that you forget the orchestra is there and instead just feel the sound.
The film’s climax was particularly rowdy. The crowd hooted and hollered throughout — for shirtless/sweaty Goldblum and for the T-Rex chomping down on the velociraptors. When the Philharmonic played the main theme over the final credits, the crowd went wild.
It is clear why Williams’ soundtracks have become a summer classic at the Bowl. They may not be highbrow, but the audience adores them. Personally, I can’t get enough. Whatever the Los Angeles Philharmonic selects for next year’s movie performance — be it sharks, swashbuckling archaeologists, or space rebels — I’ll be there.