by Lorie Lewis Ham
Ride the Cyclone opened at the Selma Arts Center this past weekend. The experience of this show begins before you even sit down in your seat as you are led through a tunnel up to the on-stage seating.Ride the Cyclone is a musical that premiered in Canada in 2008 and made its American debut in 2015. Music, lyrics, and book were written by Jacob Richmond and Brooke Maxwell. It is the second installment in Richmond’s “Uranium Teen Scream Trilogy,” a collection of three theatrical works, one not yet written, that take place in the exaggerated Uranium City. In Ride the Cyclone, members of the St. Cassian High School chamber choir of Uranium City, Saskatchewan, perish in a rollercoaster accident on a ride called The Cyclone. The six teens wake up in limbo where only one can win the grand prize—the chance to live again, beyond the Cyclone disaster. They take turns pleading their case through song, each one sharing secrets that the other members didn’t know—some of which are heartbreaking, some hilarious, and some sweet. The show is double cast, with the Fortune cast performing the first and fourth weekend and the Fate cast performing the middle two weekends. I saw the Fortune Cast made up of Alyssa Burgos, Erin Brown, Jacob Moon, Dylan Villanueva Hardcastle, Jenna Erickson, and Noah Villaverde. One character, The Amazing Karnak (I saw Jacob Gonzalez), is also double cast, but in that case, it is divided differently—this character serves as the narrator and game master.
The first thing that stood out to me was the quality of the music—each performer had a beautiful voice perfectly matched with their individual song style. I also enjoyed the lovely choir harmonies—it was easy to believe that they were a school choir. The styles of the individual songs vary and include rap and some powerhouse vocals. The characters represent many different types of high schoolers—the overachiever, the shy girl, the nerd, the bad boy, the invisible, and the only gay kid in the school. While I enjoyed all of the songs, a personal favorite was “Noel’s Lament” where Noel (Jacob Moon) acts out his desire to be a Marlene Dietrich character.The show is only around an hour and a half with no intermission, so it went by very quickly. The set is minimal but is just what is needed to set the mood of the story and setting. There are many costume changes throughout the show, with the core costumes being the kids’ school uniforms. The story is tragic, moving, and, at times, very sweet. It is a show that can make you think, cry, and laugh. If you are looking to see something a bit different and enjoy a fun “ride”, don’t miss Ride the Cyclone! It is quite the ride! Kudos to directors Claudio Laso and Chris Ortiz-Belcher for putting together an interesting and fun show. I’m sure the Fate Cast is just as talented as the Fortune one, Selma Arts always delivers a top-notch show.
Ride the Cyclone is on stage at the Selma Arts Center through December 2. I highly recommend getting your tickets ahead of time since seating is limited. You can purchase tickets online or at their box office–1935 High Street – Selma, CA 93662 – Phone: (559) 891-2238. This show is rated PG 13.
All photos by Kyle Lowe.