The Pick: Ride the Cyclone, the ghastly, wacky surprise hit of the season
The best show in the city right now isn’t at the Princess of Wales or the Royal Alex, but in the cramped bowels of the Theatre Passe Muraille. Ride the Cyclone, an irreverent and buoyant musical from the relentlessly innovative Victoria troupe Atomic Vaudeville, has a small cast and minimalist sets. But through word of mouth and ecstatic reviews, this little show has become the hottest ticket in town—it sold out the entire second half of its run, meaning only a few people will be able to snag rush seats at this Saturday’s matinee.
The musical is kind of like a darker, smarter, bizarro Glee. Narrated by the Amazing Karnak (a fortune-telling machine like the one Tom Hanks wishes on in Big), the show is a post-death recital given by a sextet of high school choir members who were killed on a rickety Saskatchewan roller coaster. Somehow, the kids (played by a wickedly talented cast who hit all the right comedic and musical notes) take it all in stride, belting their fantasies, heartaches and secrets in a cycle of wicked earworms.
While the music and cast are fantastic, it’s the show’s hilarious, slightly creepy ingenuity that makes it unmissable. A rat who gnaws at Karnak’s wiring is the show’s guitarist, played by a guy in a giant red-eyed rodent’s head. One of the kids, after stripping off his choir uniform to reveal a silver unitard complete with cape, breaks into a number about a sci-fi planet populated by cat-women—it’s like a cross between David Bowie and Dr. Frank-N-Furter. In the show’s most effective conceit, the sixth kid, who was decapitated in the accident, is left without an identity; instead, she’s painted up like a doll, with blonde ringlets, blacked-out eyes and a haunting soprano. Ride the Cyclone is independent theatre at its best and the scramble to get tickets will be more than justified. We just hope it comes back.
The details: Rush tickets available Dec. 3. 2 p.m. PWYC. Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave., 416-504-7529, passemuraille.on.ca