Review | Ride The Cyclone: step right up for a rip-roaring good time

The Jungle Theater, through Oct 20

Shinah Brashears, Josh Zwick, Jordan M. Leggett, Michael Hanna, Gabrielle Dominique in RIDE THE CYCLONE. Photo by Dan Norman.

Every roller coaster worth its ride has thrills, suspense and a brief glimpse of your own mortality as you loop, flip, and zoom around the track. Ride the Cyclone, the mad-cap musical dramedy playing at Jungle Theater through October 20th doesn’t skimp on the thrills. Directed by Sarah Rasmussen, this show is a 90-minute spectacle sprinkled with a few life lessons for good measure.

The plot follows five choir students from a small town in Saskatchewan, Canada who die in a freak roller-coaster accident. Stuck in carnival-themed purgatory with the all-knowing, all-seeing, amusement park attraction The Amazing Karnak, played by Jim Lichtscheidl, the teens are told they are contestants in a game, and the winner has a chance to go back to their life on Earth. You have Ocean, played by Shinah Brashears, the A-plus, type-A personality, perfectionist and the clear leader of the crew. Brashear’s unwavering pep is the perfect foil to Ocean’s shy best friend Constance, played by Gabrielle Dominique. Constance is the nice one, the doormat of the group. But audiences will delight in watching Dominique bring Constance out of her shell, culminating in one show-stopping number.Joining the two girls are Mischa, the hot-blooded angry Ukrainian played by Michael Hanna, Noel the misunderstood French Film aficionado and provocateur played by Josh Zwick, and Ricky, the dreamer played by Jordan M. Leggett.

When a mystery contestant, Jane Doe, played by Becca Hart, joins the fun, what follows is a musical experience unlike any other. Each contestant takes their turn, telling a story filled with song and dance about their life on Earth, what they miss most, and why they should be the one to go back. As Doe, Hart is a knock-out who steals the show with acrobatics, flawlessly stylized doll-like mannerisms, and a crystal-clear soprano voice that echoes over the audience.  Wonderful.

Like a choir in real life, the real strengths of the cast are the way they work in harmony. Individually, some voices pale compared to others, but together, the cast’s singing shines, hitting just the right notes. The seemingly inexhaustible, frantic and high-octane energy each cast member exhibits is part of what makes this show work. An otherwise been there, done that premise would be lackluster were it not for the infectious excitement of the cast.

There is no weak link in the cast, though and with lots of laughs, a few tears, and some fantastic songs, Ride the Cyclone feels like riding a real roller coaster. It’s fun, just a little unnerving, and you’re not quite sure how you got the end but can’t wait to get right back on and ride again.

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