When Atomic Vaudeville writers Jacob Richmond and Brooke Maxwell decided to use a tragic roller-coaster accident as the basis for their play, Ride the Cyclone, they set the audience up for one of the most twisting, looping, emotionally thrilling rides of the summer.
Follow the St. Cassian Chamber Choir from Uranium, Sask., as they perform their posthumous grand finale — one last chance to show the world who they are after their untimely death on the Cyclone. Some of these small-town kids didn’t get the chance to loose their virginity, quit their job at Taco Bell or leave the friendly town that raised them — a once bustling (and mythical) town made entirely out of uranium ore.
Mechanized fortune teller, Karnack, brought to life by puppeteer Jen Wilcox, grants them their finale after encouraging them to ride the Cyclone — he knew of their impending demise, but couldn’t warn them because he was set on “family fun mode.”
This hilarious and thought-provoking play runs the gamut of emotion and musical genres as each chorister takes the stage for this celebration of life. Ukrainian immigrant Misha Bachinsky, played by Atomic Vaudeville newcomer Matthew Coulson, shows both his hard and soft sides by blending ballet and hip hop for a hilarious ode to his online lover, Natalia. Ricky Potts, played by the quirky Elliot Loran, harnesses the cosmos for his awkwardly laugh-out-loud, Bowie-inspired rendition of “Space Age Bachelor Man” about cats in space, complete with lasers. Ocean Rosenberg, the self-appointed leader played by Rielle Braid, soulfully sings a politically potent gospel tune.
Vocal standouts included Kholby Wardell and Sarah Jane Pelzer. Wardell played Noel Gruber, the lone gay guy in town, and the only person I’ve ever heard long for a life as a female prostitute, waking up in a pool of her own vomit missing teeth in post-war France. His sultry vocals and fishnet stockings got the audience riled up and was the perfect way to start the show.
Pelzer as the decapitated Jane Doe, hauntingly sings her mysterious obituary while eerily gripping the headless body of the doll she stole her head from. Although she may never know who she was in life, the cast pulls together and sings her a birthday song in death, giving her a new start in her ghostly existence. Her classically trained voice is the perfect fit for this spooky role.
But the highlight of the show is the monologue by Kelly Hudson as the buxom girl-next-door Constance Blackwood. Blackwood is described by her best friend, Ocean, as the nicest girl in homeroom, but as soon as she takes the stage, we realize that underneath that chubby, smiling exterior is a girl who lost her virginity to a carnie in the pooper just hours before her last wild ride. The only girl happy to be born, raised and die in Uranium was also the only kid on the coaster not afraid to die.
Ride the Cyclone is a clever, chilling and yet extremely humorous look at the life and death of small-town folks and their big city dreams. It left the audience happy to be spending precious moments of their lives taking in this wonderfully playful performance.
Take heed in Karnack’s incredibly chilling last words: “Be sure to ride the Cyclone.” Ride the Cyclone is playing at the Belfry until July 17, before Atomic Vaudeville heads out on a summer tour to the Arts Club Theatre’s Revue Stage in Vancouver, Sept. 28 to Oct. 15; the Yukon Arts Centre, Oct. 26 to 28; and Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto, Nov. 10 to Dec. 3. M
Ride the Cyclone
At the Belfry Theatre
Nightly until July 16 at 8pm,
Matinees: Sat. July 16 at 4pm, Sun. July 17 at 2pm
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