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Review: RIDE THE CYCLONE at Tower Grove Abbey

Review: RIDE THE CYCLONE at Tower Grove Abbey

Stray Dog Theatre's Ride the Cyclone is a musical thrill ride.

A tragic rollercoaster ride and a cryptic prophecy from a mechanical fortune teller set the stage for a thrilling season finale from Stray Dog Theatre. From the start, Ride the Cyclone establishes itself as a quirky musical with emotional poignancy and plenty of heart.

Presented with no intermission, Ride the Cyclone is literally an emotional rollercoaster. Aided by visual projections and a terrific musical score, the show is a not to be missed exploration of the human spirit.

The plot centers on the fate of five members of the St. Cassian High School chamber choir of Uranium City, Saskatchewan, a talented troop of vocalists whose existence is interrupted after a freak mishap on a rollercoaster propels them into the afterlife. Joining them for their fateful ride is Jane Doe, a mysterious and unsettling young woman whose life story is shrouded in mystery.

As unlucky as they are dysfunctional, the members of the choir are flawed adolescents who have lived selfish and often underwhelming lives. Arriving in a mystical sort of carny purgatory after their accident, the six youths discover they are on borrowed time.

Pulling the strings is the omnipotent Karnak, a devilishly delightful mechanical fortune teller who will become unserviceable in one hour after a rat chews on his connecting chord, effectively cutting him off from the power supply he needs to operate.

While still functional, Karnak (whose main function is to serve as a snarky and foreboding moral compass) invites each passenger of the Cyclone to lobby for why they are worthy of winning the grand prize, an opportunity to return to the living world as the accident's only survivor.

Warning each rider of their individual fate, Karnak's game of life forces the six passengers to face their true selves. This challenge of circumspection becomes even more complicated after he reveals that the winner must be named by a unanimous vote. Standing in judgment of each other and forced to confront their own identities, the six victims reveal their desires and aspirations before casting their fateful vote.

This lively musical comes complete with talented cast of performers. Eileen Engel shines as the self-centered Ocean O'Connell Rosenberg, a young woman who has no problem repping herself and her successes. Engel's turn as Ocean delves beneath a selfish veneer, giving audiences a strong teen, whose vulnerability comes to the surface.

Also exceptional is Riley Dunn as the brash Ukrainian, Mischa Bachinski. A talented actor, he delivers some of the musical's most comedic moments.

Stephen Henley gives an aw-shucks likability to Ricky Potts, Uranium's most creative dreamer whose degenerative disease has mysteriously been cured. Henley makes the character fun to watch as he transforms himself from a quiet nebbish to the space age superhero of his dreams.

Michael Hodges shines as Uranium's only openly gay citizen, Noel Gruber. The snidest member of the Cyclone six, his rousing cabaret number is one of the show's best moments.

Returning to Stray Dog is Grace Langford as the seemingly timid Constance Blackwood. She is dynamic as she provides the production with an emotional heartbeat.

Dawn Schmid steals the production as Jane Doe, a victim whose presence is a bit of a wild card. Her Tim Burton-esque presentation gives audiences an enigmatic stranger layered in complexities. To her credit, Schmid's restraint prevents a cliched, over the top character from emerging. Her performance is aided by her stunning voice which smoothly transitions between banshee wailing and operatic etherealness with great effect.

More than an exploration of life and death, director Leah Schultz's Ride the Cyclone is a musical breathing in two worlds, one dark, surreal and disturbing, and the other a song filled celebration of life. Taken together, Schultz has crafted a rapidly paced musical production loaded with excellent performances from a talented ensemble.

Ride The Cyclone plays at Tower Grove Abbey through December 17th. For tickets and more information visit https://cloud.broadwayworld.com/rec/ticketclick.cfm?fromlink=2212780®id=81&articlelink=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.straydogtheatre.org?utm_source=BWW2022&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=article&utm_content=bottombuybutton1



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From This Author - Rob Levy

Rob Levy is a St. Louis based writer, blogger, DJ and podcaster with extensive experience writing about theatre, opera, health, science, tech and popular culture for St. Louis Magazine, ALIVE ... (read more about this author)


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