Ride the Cyclone: A Weird Extremely Fun Ride to Death
Someone asked me what I thought Ride the Cyclone was all about, and whether they should take their visiting mother to see it. I had no idea what to say to be honest, beyond, “Yes, definitely take your mother!” I have no clue what she will think of it, but all I do know is that I loved every minute of it, and will tell everyone I meet to go see this exciting, crazy musical about a roller coaster ride that doesn’t end so well, and a singing contest where the stakes couldn’t be any higher. Does that make any sense to anyone who doesn’t know about this Canadian bred musical from the super talented team of Brooke Maxwell and Jacob Richmond? I doubt it, but to dig in any deeper might loose some of the fun and thrill of seeing such an original fun dark piece of musical theatre.
After a disastrous turn on the Cyclone roller coaster, the members of a high school choir find themselves in a troubling dimension, somewhere between life and death, stuck in a creepy theatrical carnival world (a magnificent set design by Scott Davis & lighting design by Greg Hofmann). Ruled over by the all powerful, and very funny, The Amazing Karnak (perfectly performed by a costume- heavy Karl Hamilton), the teenagers must compete for the ultimate prize, in a twisted singing battle of ever changing rules. The competitors, Constance Blackwood (Lillian Castillo), Mischa Bachinski (Gus Halper), Jane Doe (Emily Rohm), Ocean O’Connell Rosenberg (Tiffany Tatreau), Noel Gruber (Kholby Wardell), and Ricky Potts (Alex Wyse) must make their case in front of the Amazing Karnak through song and in turn, reveal deep truths about themselves to each other and us. Directed and choreographed by Rachel Rockwell with a sharp witty sense of fun and dark sincerity, it’s a marvelously clever set-up, rich in ghoulish bravado and weirdness.
The cast is eclectic, ridiculous (in all the right ways), and totally “awesome” as they each get their turn in front of us all to win rebirth. They are also compelled by the last chance in their lifetime to reveal their most inner secrets and personas to one another, and open themselves up to judgement and/or acceptance. There is not a weak number in the lineup (even Micha’s rap infused song, “This Song is Awesome” – my least favorite musically, was performed incredibly by Halper), and each feel fresh and unique, just like the characters themselves.
The stand out for me was the beautifully haunting Rohm, both in her spectacular voice, character’s depiction, story-line and beautifully staged number, “The Ballad of Jane Doe”. Or was it Wardell’s Noel, who performs a deliciously confessional song echoing Marlene Dietrich? Ocean’s hilarious ode to self-love? I can’t decide, as it’s too difficult to pick a favorite here. (On second thought, maybe my favorite was Castillo in both her personification of Constance and her great number, “Sugarcloud”.) Suffice to say, that all have spectacularly funny poignant moments, and to go into further detail would be unfair. Just know, that this show is a macabre amusement park ride masking as a brilliant musical, one that I hope will find it’s way to Broadway. More fun then the actual Cyclone roller coaster, and a lot less dangerous. I’m sure all will enjoy the thrills that this ride will give, and in no way will it crash and burn.
check out this video with the Chicago cast: https://youtu.be/pP0aaV4_tD8