By Holli Harms

Trilobites lived and thrived on this planet 500 million years ago. They existed in the oceans for over 270 million years, adapting to changes and readapting again and again. They were finally wiped out, along with 90% of the planet’s ocean and land species, in the Permian extinction. That extinction was caused by a massive volcano explosion and was followed by decades of acid rain.

But now, live at The New Victory Theater, they are brought back to life in the marvelous children’s musical, Riddle Of The Trilobites.

It’s molting day and for the youngest of the Trilobites, Aphra (Sifiso Mabena) and her best friend Judomiah (Richard Saudek), it is their first life experience. It’s a very exciting time for them and the elders of this trilobite community. But when they shed their old exoskeleton a discovery is made – Aphra’s new markings are the markings of trilobite folklore. They are the markings of the one, the one who must take the journey to discover the meaning of the prophecy, “Trilobites cannot live, but will not die.” So Aphra and Judomiah, their friend Calliope (Tiffany Iris), and a new friend they make, a fish named Hai (Phillip Taratula), must travel the ocean bottom to find the clues and eventually the answer to the riddle.

The character/puppets, Aphra, Judomiah, Calliope, and Hai are beautiful, expressive and so fluid. Deb O has filled the stage with long flowing sheer cloth that enables Eric Southern’s ravishing lighting design to fill the stage with color after mesmerizing color, and makes every moment look like an underwater adventure like no other.

The performers are sensational, quadruple threats as puppeteers, singers, dancers, actors.

The songs are out of this Paleozoic World! They talk about what it means to molt – “we bare our insides so that our insides become our outsides.” When these exoskeletons meet their first fish Hai they are so interested in him as he has his skeleton on the inside of his body. All dialogue and songs are geared to learning about the creatures of the Paleozoic era and how their extinction came about. This is science disguised, but not too disguised. The audience was mostly 4 to 8-year-olds who brought their adults, and all were completely engaged from beginning to end.

Did I mention the live orchestra? It’s just another piece of deliciousness in this wonderfully joyful production.

The riddle, in the end, is that though the Trilobites will perish as living creatures they will continue “life” as important fossils that we will study over and over to find understanding of a past time.

The theatre is itself a quietly beautiful fossil. When you are there, look up at the ceiling with its ornate friezes. And get there early, downstairs there are stations to learn about the trilobites – coloring stations, and interactive games. There is also a snack bar that is not, I repeat not, overpriced. It is an adventure for all. 80 minutes of fun and wonderment, and lots of laughs.

Note: There are relaxed performances for children who are Neurodiverse, check out the Vic WEBSITE for them and plenty of booster seats for all those in need of a little boost.

Riddle Of The Trilobites – Director and Co-creator Lee Sunday Evans, Book & Lyrics Geo Decas O’Donnell & Jordan Seavey, Music & Lyrics, Music Direction, Arrangements & Orchestrations Nicholas Williams

With: Tiffany Iris, Sifiso Mabena, Joel Oramas, Julia Sirna-Frest, Richard Saudek, and Phillip Taratula, Understudy Sophia Aranda

Creative Team: Director and Co-creator Lee Sunday Evans, Book & Lyrics Geo Decas O’Donnell & Jordan Seavey, Music & Lyrics, Music Direction, Arrangements & Orchestrations Nicholas Williams, Puppetry Concept Amanda Villalobos, Puppet Direction Pam Arciero, Scenic Design & Elder Robes Design Deb O, Costume Design Katherine Nelson, Eric Southern Lighting Design, Emma Will Sound Design

Performance Schedule:
Friday, February 7 at 7pm
Saturday, February 8 at 12pm / 5pm Sunday, February 9 at 12pm* / 5pm Saturday, February 15 at 12pm / 5pm Sunday, February 16 at 12pm** / 5pm
Monday, February 17 at 2pm, Wednesday, February 19 at 2pm Friday, February 21 at 12pm Saturday, February 22 at 12pm / 5pm, Sunday, February 23 at 12pm / 5pm
*Sensory-friendly performance **Sign-interpreted performance
Running time: 80 minutes Recommended for 6 and up
Ticket Information Full-price tickets for RIDDLE OF THE TRILOBITES start at $17. Tickets are available online HERE and by phone (646.223.3010).
To purchase tickets in person, the New Victory box office is located at 209 West 42nd Street (between 7th / 8th Avenues). Box office hours are Sunday & Monday from 11am-5pm and Tuesday through Saturday from 12pm-7pm.