Photo by Don Kellogg

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Ride The Cyclone

I did not see this show in Chicago  or elsewhere, however after reviewing the photos and old new articles and reviews, it is evident to me just how much a show grows as it steps through it's maturation process by moving from out of town to an off-Broadway theater.  Ride the Cyclone has done this by moving to MCC and the Lucile Lortel Theatre.

Ironically, the show is set in a carnival like atmosphere.  The soothsaying head in a booth, the roller coaster, the amusement park freak-show feel - all parts of the show that fit in the Lortel quite nicely - it's a total dump and has been for years.

Brooke Maxwell and Jacob Richmond have penned quite the musical with a message and a heart.  I must admit, it seemed geared for adolescents.  It felt a little like a NYMF show.  However, the show was executed so well and so crisply, I could have imagined being in a Broadway theatre.  Moving cities, upgrading costumes, enhancing the set have all done this show a huge favor although I suspect the bones of this show were always solid.

The cast, as you would expect, is all kids.  Talented kids.  Very good looking kids dripping with pent up sexual and vocal energies.  You get to "meet" each one of them as they spin the dial of the slot machine of life - a clever expository device that fits nicely into the carney atmosphere.  Frankly the only "adult" (over 25) on the stage the entire time is The Amazing Karnak (Karl Hamilton) who is the illuminated head and hands in the booth with his crystal ball.  You only see his real face at the curtain call but his voice is one that could read you the phone book and you'd be mesmerized.

Being a show of teenage angst, relationships and friendships along with a twisted story of a purgatory-like experience for these kids, makes this show perfectly positioned to capture the hearts of a millennial audience.  Mischa Bachinski (Gus Halpert) and his Russian accent and crotch grabbing rap number drips with sexuality (shirt off doesn't hurt).  Noel Gruber (Kholby Wardell) is absolutely divine as an adorable gay student but even more so as his cheap french whore persona deep down inside. (Kholby is Canadian so now I want to marry him!) Ricky Potts (Alex Wyse) is cute, absolutely adorable and surprisingly powerful in his alternate (and sexy) persona too.

One would never think a show about 6 dead teenagers would be so fun, uplifting, and entertaining, but given the macabre nature of the material, one has to look beyond the obvious and dream a little along side these youngsters.  It doesn't help that the fortune teller (Karnak) has quite the dark sense of humor.  If you need an exhilarating experience in the theatre, head over to the Lortel and go for a wild ride with Cyclone!