by Jody Key – Managing Editor — May 17, 2019
Alliance Theater is taking audiences on the ride of their life with RIDE THE CYCLONE which plays until May 26th. The story of 6 students from the Saint Cassian Chamber Choir who met their demise upon a roller coaster named the Cyclone is a dark comedy of epic proportions. Think PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE meets FOREVER PLAID and you’ll get some idea about the plot line. This 90 minute one-act introduces you to the six students from the town of Uranium in Saskathewan, Canada. They are thrown from the roller coaster in a freak accident as the axle breaks at the apex of the loop-de-loop, and we meet them in the afterlife. They find themselves in a type of purgatory limbo where they meet the Amazing Karnak — a Zoltar type machine that told their fortunes just before they died. He becomes a celestial game show host and demands each angsty teenager make a case for themselves. The winner will be awarded the chance to return to earth and continue their lives.
This is a uniquely amazing production and one of the best I’ve seen this season. Precise technical execution is a difficult feat, and when you have projections, a bulls-eye rotating stage, and intricate light and sound demands, it’s downright daunting. The crew of CYCLONE pulled this off flawlessly. Director Leora Morris and her crew, scenic designer Scott Davis, costumer Theresa Ham, lighting designer Greg Hofmann, and sound Designer Clay Benning created a feast for the eyes and ears unparalleled on any stage currently in the Atlanta area. The vocals and music were also immaculate under the musical direction of Greg Matteson.
Karl Hamilton’s Amazing Karnak will have you wondering if he’s voicing over an animatronic, or actually inside the creepy carnival costume. He’s the glue that hold the show together, and has the audience laughing beginning with his unique pre-show announcements.
Tiffany Tatreau is the prefect and privileged Ocean O’Connell Rosenberg. She’s a perfectionist and fiercely competitive. She regards herself highly and looks down on her choir mates from a lofty, self-aggrandized perch. Tiffany pulls this off with a perky attitude and stellar vocals and in the process, creates a character we love in spite of her big-headed flaws.
Kholby Wardell plays Noel Gruber, the gay kid who works at Taco Bell, but his secret aspiration is to be a French whore. He’s hilarious, and his beautiful voice is full of colorful textures which highlight his story. I also enjoyed the onstage quick change from high school boy in uniform to a Bebe Neuwirth in Chicago looking femme fatale.
Chaz Duffy portrays Mischa Bachinski, a Ukrainian who is very much into pop culture and expresses his case in an auto-tuned rap. Chaz does an excellent job with Ukranian diction under the tutelage of dialect coach Elisa Carlson. His musical number takes projection work to the next level and will knock your socks off.
Scott Redmond is Ricky Potts, the crippled, mute who finds his voice and his dance and accordion skills in this strange carny limbo. His fantasy as a sex god from a planet of cats is so random and far fetched, yet extremely fun and funny.
Lillian Castillo plays Constance Blackwood in the Off-Broadway production and we are so blessed to see her revise the role in Atlanta. She was one of my personal favorite characters and Lillian plays her so sweet and demure. Her vocal range is incredible. Constance is the underdog, basking in the shadow of her best friend Ocean’s glow.
Finally, we are treated to the performance of the Haunting Jane Doe by Emily Rohm, who is also reviving her Off Broadway role. All I can say is WOW!! She has the most pure and beautiful soprano voice, and she takes this pathetic character and gives her a soul. Jane Doe was beheaded on the ride and no one knows who she actually is. Her creepy persona also provides some of the best comic bits of the evening.
Overall, RIDE THE CYCLONE is a wonderfully wacky thrill ride full of characters we can all identify with. It’s pure entertainment and Speakeysie recommends this show as a Key-noteworthy must-see and the most surprising show we’ve seen all year. Astonishing story, vocals, lights and projections. It’s a story about life, death, and so much more. Cleverly written, amazingly unique, and highly entertaining!
Ride the Cyclone plays at Alliance until May 26th. Tickets are available at https://alliancetheatre.org/production/2018-19/ride-the-cyclone