Ride the Cyclone is the quintessential modern musical

Comments8

Directed by Jacob Richmond and Britt Small. Book by Jacob Richmond. Music by Brooke Maxwell and Jacob Richmond. An Arts Club Theatre Company production as part of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival. Continues at the Granville Island Stage until February 16

If you died after reading this sentence, would anyone have really known you? Or would your secret self be desperate for one last swan song coming to terms with who you were and the person you always thought you’d have time to become?

Now add in a little choreography and the morbid, twee humour of Wes Anderson and Tim Burton and you have Ride the Cyclone, the most inventive and twisted musical to ever come out of Victoria, B.C and probably Canada.

Created by Atomic Vaudeville, Ride the Cyclone tells the tale of six high-school choir teens from Uranium, Saskatchewan, who have just died riding the Cyclone roller coaster. Trapped between this world and the other side, they become unwilling participants in a game orchestrated by the omniscient, talking, automated fortune-teller the Amazing Karnack, who offers them a chance to “save” one person and bring him or her back to life.

The entire cast, many of whom have been with the production since its workshop days in 2009, is flawless. There are no empty or false moments from the actors, and thanks to a combination of keen attention to detail and the amount of time spent perfecting each moment, almost everything works beautifully.

Even the majority of the songs, which impressively run the gamut from steamy chanson (invigoratingly performed by Kholby Wardell) to pitch-perfect operetta (a heartbreaking turn by Sarah Jane Pelzer), are stellar.

What that means, though, is that the few musical numbers that have even the faintest weakness stand out. The main issue is with “Space Age Bachelor Man”. It aims for David Bowie–meets–Tommy but doesn’t push itself far enough sonically and drags in places. That’s strange, given the song is basically about one boy’s rich inner fantasy life about being a sex god sent to lay with feline aliens.

But aside from this minor complaint and a few sound inconsistencies that should get ironed out, Ride the Cyclone is the quintessential modern musical: plenty of black humour tempered by some lovely pathos, and a sweeping survey of 20th-century music. That it sends you into the night with a reflective and grateful heart means it may also have the necessary staying power to become a classic.

Comments (8) Add New Comment
gregg
Who are you kidding? This play was boring and stupid. Complete waste of time.
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55
Rating: -27
gregg
OK, now I get it...because it's Canadian we're supposed to treat it like a 19-year old mentally challenged student in special ed - cheer politley and give an A for effort. Well, forget that. If you're going to charge Broadway prices for this schlock; and I paid 49 dollars, I'm going to judge by off-Broadway standards, and say this crap will BOMB in New York.
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49
Rating: -24
Truth BOMB
Really Gregg? Been to New York lately? Apparently not. Your average Broadway show will run you anywhere from $75 to $200. And I'm not even taking about when Book of Mormon first opened ($500). Besides, I could name all the CRAP on Broadway but it would take all night. Instead I'll just judge you in the same juvenile, provincial tone of your post. Next time try saying something constructive. You didn't like the show? Why not? You felt ripped off? Do tell. You've got something to say? Then try actually SAYING something. You're obviously bourgeoisie enough to pay $49 for a ticket. A THEATRE ticket no less! I would hope you would have some kind of opinion that's more meaningful than "this sucks!". Or maybe, like most useless, self-righteous posters, you got your college degree over the internet and you still live in your mother's basement. Well, here's "grown-up" idea for you: try being useful for a change. Or at least contribute to criticism in a meaningful way. You might find it refreshing.

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22
Rating: +11
Jay
Honestly, 50$ for Ride the Cyclone seems over blown. I agree with Gregg's assessment of Canadian politeness, though not much else. It is great that a new Canadian work is being supported and championed, and has had the chance to grow and be workshopped, but what I saw on the Arts Club stage was most definitely NOT the quintessential modern musical. I certainly enjoyed parts of the show, and a number of the performances were great (particularly the already mentioned Kholby Wardell), but the predictable structure, repetitive staging (especially the banal use of "drama boxes" in every number), and lack of any real dramatic through-line were disappointing. Leaving the theatre I couldn't help but think I would have enjoyed the show more were it presented as a song cycle. And don't get me started on the wonderful puppetry, shoved to the side, and barely lit... As much as I love the concept (and much of Atomic Vaudeville's previous work) Ride the Cyclone registers as a slightly underwhelming piece of theatre, still in need of development.
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Rating: -18
CLAIRE
Ride the Cyclone certainly does not deserve the glowing praise that it received from Mr. Thomas. Yes, art is subjective. I have no doubt that Mr. Thomas was deeply pleased by his experience in the theatre, but perhaps this is more related to the bar being set by most Vancouver theatre in terms of innovation and relevance and less to do with the actual production values of Ride the Cyclone in particular.

I think young theatre artists should be lauded for taking a piece they believe in and bringing it to the stage, but at the same time I think that if theatre is to grow its audience and not lose it, as is currently the case, then working to make our productions better through useful critical feedback is vital. I would like to see a lively dissection of the merits and flaws of a play, something the director and actors and audience members could learn from, not just a warm fuzzy review that basically acts as little more than marketing material for said production.

Rather than vilifying Gregg, why don't we try and keep him coming back to the theatre? Why don't we ask him what would have made the show less boring for him? What would he have preferred to have been watching?
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Rating: -8
Truth BOMB
I believe this review was written by Andrea Warner, not Colin Thomas. Either way, I think we're saying the same thing CLAIRE. I was simply challenging gregg to actually contribute to a conversation regarding criticism in a meaningful way. If he can't articulate his issues with the show then Vancouver theatre audiences are probably better off without him. You can't grow an audience or develop young talent if all you get is a "this suck!" attitude and little else.

In terms of "supporting" Canadian theatre out of politeness I don't think this show is a prime example. The company is from Victoria but they had to prove themselves with RTC in Toronto before Vancouver would even bat an eyelash. It's not politeness we're guilty of, or even over-nurturing our artists, but rather elitism.

It's possible there's a generational issue at work here. As fas as I can tell the average age of the creative team and company is around 30. It's a production that was no doubt created by, and possibly for, a younger generation of theatre artists/audiences. I wouldn't be surprised if many Boomers don't get this show and are left scratching their heads wondering what all the fuss was about. I feel the same way about most Vancouver theatre I've seen. Many a time have I left a production wondering "why the hell does anybody give a shit about THAT?" only to find myself engulfed in a sea of grey hair and joyous clamouring.
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Rating: -3
One More
I'm 28 and while I found the show fun to look at, I wasn't engaged with any of the characters nor did I really find myself compelled to care about any of them. I found a lot of the lyrics terribly difficult to hear and from my seat I missed some of the action.

It's not that it's a bad show - quite the contrary - it's a lot of fun, but I don't see it as the next big thing. Sorry.
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Rating: -12
Bardo Ponde
We saw a matinee of this show today here in Vancouver with our 11 year old daughter and we loved it. Enough said.
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24
Rating: +9
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