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vancouverplays review


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— L-R: Elliott Loran, Rielle Braid, SarahJane Pelzer, Matthew Paul, Kelly Hudson, and Kholby Wardell, the cast of Ride the Cyclone.
Photo by Fairen Berchard."

by Jacob Richmond
Music & lyrics by Brooke Maxwell & Jacob Richmond
Atomic Vaudeville
Revue Stage, Granville Island
Sept. 28-Oct. 15
604-629-8849 or

(This is Jerry's review of the show's original stop at the Arts Club in 2011)

From Victoria’s ridiculously gifted Atomic Vaudeville company comes one of the strangest, most stylish and entertaining musicals of recent years. For the next two weeks they should be the hottest ticket in town. Think Glee (only much smarter) with zombies. This is Ride the Cyclone.

The demented genius behind this wild ride is Jacob Richmond, who wrote the script, co-wrote the music and lyrics with musical director Brooke Maxwell, and co-directs the show with Britt Small.  Add the inspired choreography of Treena Stubel and six hugely talented dead kids plus a giant rat on bass (Hank Pine) and you’ve got an absolutely killer show.

The dead kids are members of a high school choir from tiny Uranium, Saskatchewan who were riding a roller coaster when its cars flew off their tracks and killed them. We’re told this by the carnival’s fortune-telling machine. There might actually have been only five choir members because the sixth body found, along with its severed head, was a mysterious, unidentifiable girl known only as Jane Doe (gorgeous-voiced Sarah Jane Pelzer).

The other five are freaked by Jane’s ghoulish presence, but all sing and dance together behind each solo. There’s Noel (Kholby Wardell), the town’s only gay kid, whose funny, poignant story morphs into a ferocious drag routine as a French chanteuse. Ocean O’Connell Rosenberg (Rielle Braid), product of a liberal Jewish father and Machiavellian Irish mother, sings a brilliant song, with the help of Karl Marx, about her attempts to win a debating competition against a blind kid in a wheelchair.

 Misha (Mathew Coulson), the immigrant kid, is alter ego rapper Bad Egg when he’s angry but in his better moods he dances ballet and dreams—in a wonderful video sequence—of his girlfriend back in idyllic Serbia. Ricky (Elliott Loran, a terrific dancer who doubles on piano), the geeky kid who lives inside his imagination, transforms into Bowie-like “Bachelor Man,” surrounded by a chorus of cat women.

And Constance (Kelly Hudson), the nicest, loneliest girl in town, sings, “I want the world to get hit by a bus,” before a sublime monologue details what she remembers feeling as the roller coaster flew through the air towards their demise.

All the songs, including Jane Doe’s Kurt Weill-ish original, are beautifully arranged and sung, and the performances uniformly subtle and vividly staged.

Having conquered Toronto last year, with audience choice awards and reviews to die for, the show travels to Whitehorse and back to Toronto after its Vancouver run, then (it’s rumoured) to New York. Don’t miss it.

Jerry Wasserman