Toothy giants rumble into coliseum, delight crowd

A Brachiosaurus and a Tyrannosaurus rex entertain the crowd Wednesday at the North Charleston Coliseum during "Walking with Dinosaurs."

Review

There haven't been this many old fossils on the North Charleston Coliseum stage since the Eagles played here a few years back.

And these certainly didn't sing, especially none of that "I-love-you, you-love-me" stuff kids have come to expect from their dinosaurs.

This was more like a medley of arena-shaking roars. The only hits recorded were a few spiny tails upside toothy skulls.

The show is called "Walking with Dinosaurs," and through Sunday it will be taking North Charleston a step backward into the Mesozoic era.

It is a surprisingly graceful theatrical show, given the, ahem, girth of some of the performers. Over the course of 96 minutes, 10 species of dinosaurs meander across the coliseum floor as actor Jonathan Bliss, portraying a paleontologist named Huxley, sneaks a healthy dose of education into a show that is sometimes amazingly real.

Ever wonder if there's a hunting season on Stegosaurus, or whether dinosaurs were before or after Fort Sumter? The answers are here.

For this show, they have chosen superlatives for their thunder lizard cast - the biggest, the meanest, the one with the biggest head, the one with the most armor.

The dinosaurs are puppets, partially operated by remote control, partially portrayed by people lugging heavy suits around the stage.

The best part is that they're life-size. Never before has the scale of dinosaurs versus people been made more dramatically, and uncomfortably, apparent.

Some of the dinosaurs are better than others, but on the whole the critters are lifelike enough that it doesn't spoil the illusion when you can see a suited performer's legs sticking out of the bottom of a costume. Slightly noticeable is the Nordic Track-like thing that the larger dinosaurs move on. But those are disguised fairly well, and don't detract much.

All in all, this ain't your Disney animatronics. This $20 million show, based on a hit BBC television series, looks significantly more real than the Hall of Presidents.

It is the details that bring these creatures to life: the Torosaur munching on plants; the vivid, blinking eyes of the towering Brachiosaur; the choreographed movement of a gang of Utah Raptors, which aren't a basketball team, but could be.

When they get up close to the audience they look even better, and bigger, than they do from a distance.

The kids in the audience laughed at the baby T rex, oohed and aahed at another, and rolled in the aisles when one of the dinosaurs had an "accident." A few preschoolers found the show a bit scary, but most of the kids, and adults, were merely awestruck. Nikolas Smith, a 6-year-old from Ladson, declared the show a blast.

"They look really real," Smith said.

But was he scared?

"Well, the T rex was a little bit scary."

Eight-year-old Carolyn Graves of Summerville is something of a dinosaur savant, and at a glance could tell the Allosaurus from the Tyranosaurus. She recommended the show for everyone, and said it wasn't frightening at all.

"It's awesome," she said.

Of course, the show-stopper is the Tyranosaurus rex. At 36 feet tall, it puts the whole dinosaur thing into perspective, especially when it is compared with the size of Huxley.

It kind of shatters your illusion of The Flintstones, and makes you glad dinosaurs aren't trolling the Lowcountry these days.

But it's nice of "Walking with Dinosaurs" to remind you why you feel that way.