The Toronto Sun loves Ride The Cyclone too!

Another great review for Ride The Cyclone from The Toronto Sun:

“Take this Ride over and over”

Read the full review here >>

Take this Ride over and over
By John Coulbourn ,QMI Agency

4.0 stars

TORONTO - If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if a piece of musical theatre fluff like Forever Plaid collided head on with a darker version of Glee, book a ticket to Ride the Cyclone.

That’s the name of a new show produced from Atomic Vaudeville, a company that in periodic forays from its British Columbia home base charmed us with memorable and wildly inventive works like Legoland, which delighted in a brief run in the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace a few years ago.

Now, AV’s movin’ on up, strutting its stuff on TPM’s mainstage in their latest and already highly pedigreed romp, the aforementioned Ride the Cyclone, presented by TPM in collaboration with Acting Up Stage Company.

Set in a nether-world combining elements of a dusty midway warehouse with the smoking brimstone of the afterlife, it reunites the members of Uranium City’s teenage chamber choir — all killed when a roller coaster called The Cyclone went off the rails — for one final hometown performance.

On certain levels, it bears more than passing resemblance, plot-wise, at least, to Forever Plaid, which reunited the deceased members of a ’60s boy band — killed en route to their first gig — for a posthumous opportunity to give the concert they never gave.

But where Plaid represented one of the first charming trickles in what was destined to become a flood of jukebox musicals, all recycling old music, Cyclone boasts a whole bouquet of original tunes, which pretty much cover the waterfront when it comes to style and all the handiwork of composer Brooke Maxwell and playwright Jacob Richmond, who both share the credit for the lyrics.

Where Plaid offered its protagonists a collective vocal opportunity, Cyclone goes all psy-clone-logical, allowing each of the six dearly departed choir members an opportunity to explore his or her innermost longings before the plug is pulled on Karnak, the old carny soothsayer who brings them back to life.

So, young Noel Gruber (played by Kholby Wardell), who died knowing he was gay without ever having a chance be gay, is given a chance to get in touch with his feminine side, at the same time as Ricky Potts (Elliott Loran), a comic-book geek, gets to explore his hyper-masculinity as an otherworldly superhero.

And while the self-centred Ocean Rosenberg (Rielle Braid) gets to settle a few scores, outsiders Misha Bachinsky (Matthew Coulson) and Constance Blackwood (Kelly Hudson) finally have a chance to have their say too.

Even Jane Doe (Sarah Pelzer), found sans head in the post accident-carnage, gets a chance for a memorable solo turn.

With castmates providing dramatic back-up, they each enjoy their moment in the post-Cyclone sun, with the multi-talented Loran also doing double duty at the keyboard. He also proves a good eye behind a video camera, providing further excitement to a low-budget, hi-tech set design created by Hank Pine and James Insell, the latter charged with bringing Karnak to life.

All of this teenaged soul-searching puts one in mind of Glee, but while there are certainly Glee-ful elements at play here, it’s more like watching a negative instead of a film, as co-directors Richmond and Britt Small cultivate Glee’s preciousness while cleaving to a darker, even more cynically adult sensibility.

It’s the kind of theatre that aims to keep its audience in the theatre instead of carrying us away — truly impressive work for all that it never shakes its louche post-Brechtian theatricality long enough to really soar.