Review: RIDE THE CYCLONE at Theatre South Playhouse

A thrilling, entertaining, and energetic wild ride of a musical now playing through March 16th

By: Mar. 03, 2024
Review: RIDE THE CYCLONE at Theatre South Playhouse
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Review: RIDE THE CYCLONE at Theatre South Playhouse Secure all personal belongings, this review is about to start.

It is hard to tell when a piece of pop culture is going to have a cult following. Would Richard O’Brien have believed you back in 1973 when THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW premiered in London if you told him that his quirky, but outrageously fun, musical would still be creating midnight madness all around the world some 50+ years later? The formula for a phenomenon like that is hard to nail down. Is it the bold characters? The catchy and electric music? The slightly subversive undertones? As exciting as they can be, they don’t come around every day. Which is why it was so electric to be in the room at Theatre South Playhouse in Dr. Phillips on opening night for the Central Florida premiere of RIDE THE CYCLONE, a musical that has been growing a cult following of its own over the last few years, mostly due to a viral explosion of content on social media especially with the younger generation of musical theatre fans. And, based on the packed house of enthusiastic and excited theatergoers, seeing this performance was something special for many, and I can see why. In the highly skilled creative hands of the folks at Theatre South Playhouse, RIDE THE CYCLONE, is a thrilling, entertaining, energetic, and sometimes poignant evening of theatre that you don’t have to be a super-fan to thoroughly enjoy.

Review: RIDE THE CYCLONE at Theatre South Playhouse RIDE THE CYCLONE, written by Jacob Richmond and Brooke Maxwell, is a musical comedy with a dark twist. It tells the story of six teenagers, members of the Saint Cassian Chamber Choir from Uranium City, Saskatchewan who die tragically in a roller coaster accident and find themselves in a mysterious limbo, where they must compete for a chance to come back to life. Each student is given a moment in the spotlight to express why they deserve a second chance, which results in a series of musical numbers, with musical styles ranging from rock to rap to opera, that help the audience (and fellow students) understand the deepest desires, anxieties, hopes, and fears of the six doomed choir members.  

Review: RIDE THE CYCLONE at Theatre South Playhouse Jacob Richmond and Brooke Maxwell have created a musical that feels, in and of itself, like a carnival thrill ride. It is non-stop from the first haunting melodies to the final conclusion, with a story that unfolds at breakneck speed (excuse the pun). And at Theatre South Playhouse, director Hillary Brook captures the mood perfectly in her creative staging that ensures the audience stays hyper-focused on the stories being told on stage and those telling them. Complimented by a visually exciting stage design and iconic private school uniform costumes (both also by Ms. Brook), the setting of the story is eerily perfect for the material. But CYCLONE is not just dark, it is a comedy as well, and she ensures the comic timing of the material comes through with equal weight.

Review: RIDE THE CYCLONE at Theatre South Playhouse The young cast of RIDE THE CYCLONE are extremely talented and bring their quirky characters to life with such commitment and skill that they begin to embody their roles completely. The energy, charisma, and emotion expressed by the actors throughout the evening illustrates well why the musical strikes a chord with so many Gen Zers who can relate to the fight by the six tragic victims against the injustice of the world and cheer for the chance to make things right. Since there was such an overwhelming turnout of potential performers for this production (likely due to the popularity mentioned above), the show has been completely double cast with two entirely different sets of performers taking the stage on alternate nights. On opening night, I saw the “Jawbreaker” cast, so will speak to the merits of that group, but am certain, based on the high quality of the performances I witnessed, that the second, “Sugarcloud” cast is equally solid. First, as The Amazing Karnak, the fairground fortune telling machine that offers the students their second chance at life, Christian Inirio is so much fun to watch. His robotic movements are so convincing that I had to remind myself he was a living human sometimes. He has a great chemistry with the rest of the cast and acts as the narrator – introducing each “contestant” and telling a bit of backstory to help set context. As Ocean O’Connell Rosenberg, Logan Laree was effervescent, sometimes manic, and hilariously over the top as the straight A, social justice fighting, overachiever. Blake Croft gives a fantastic performance as Mischa Bachinski, the Ukranian badboy with a softer side. He gives a powerhouse performance of the rap-styled “This Song is Awesome” and switches immediately to the beautifully conceived “Talia”. As Noel Gruber, the nihilistic, gay young Review: RIDE THE CYCLONE at Theatre South Playhouse man with a fascination for French New Wave cinema, Taggart Connor is brilliant. His performance of “Noel’s Lament” is a showstopper – hilarious and profound at the same time.  Bennet Preuss is the quiet but wildly imaginative Ricky Potts and has arguably the longest, but craziest musical numbers in “Space Age Bachelor Man”. Jana Denning gives a powerful, emotional, and stellar performance as Constance Blackwood, delivering the emotional center of the show in their 11th hour monologue followed by an electrifying performance of Constance’s song “Sugarcloud”. And as Jane Doe, the unidentified victim of the roller coaster accident (due to not being able to find her head), Molly Jarvis is both creepy and compelling, and delivers marvelously the vocally heavy, “The Ballad of Jane Doe”. Rounding out the cast are Lilly Scarlett Reid and Zane Clark who take on ensemble roles throughout including Astrid and Hank (two characters cut from the original production), Talia, Mischa’s fiancée and Virgil, the mouse that spells impending doom for Karnak.

Review: RIDE THE CYCLONE at Theatre South Playhouse The creative elements of RIDE THE CYCLONE work together perfectly to set the mood and create the mysterious and foreboding environment. Hillary Brook’s scenic design and costume design are perfectly paired with the source material. Valerie Patterson’s lighting and Wendell Rivera Diaz’ sound create the perfect mood and ensure that each cast member is seen and heard. Christopher Payen’s choreography is energetic and fast-paced, often creating memorable visual moments that bring the story to life. Alex LaPlante has done a great job as musical director, helping each cast member create musical moments that thrill.

Overall, RIDE THE CYCLONE at Theatre South Playhouse is a wild ride. With a mix of hilarious songs, quirky characters, and poignant moments this musical about death is actually a testament to the beauty of life and living it to the fullest. It is a rare gem of a show – one that captures the zeitgeist of this post-COVID, TikTok driven world where a little Canadian musical about a tragic accident can find new life and inspire and thrill audiences in ways the creators never imagined. Don’t miss your chance to buy a ticket to “ride the cyclone” yourselves. This production is already selling out and has added an extended third weekend of performances – so don’t wait too long or you may miss this rare treat of a show!

Review: RIDE THE CYCLONE at Theatre South Playhouse

RIDE THE CYCLONE, presented by Theatre South Playhouse, runs through March 16th.  Performances take place at Theatre South Playhouse which is located in The Marketplace at Dr. Phillips, 7601 Della Drive, Suite #15, Orlando, FL 32819. Tickets can be purchased by visiting https://teachtix.com/tsplayhouse. For more information about Theatre South Playhouse visit https://www.theatresouthplayhouse.org/

All Photos by Theatre South Playhouse and feature the cast of RIDE THE CYCLONE




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