‘Ride the Cyclone,’ a Musical Journey You Won’t Forget

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The show’s ultimate message is that at the end of the day life is not a game to be won, but a ride to be enjoyed through all its ups and downs.

Marlie Kass, Journalist

In mid-April, it was announced that, almost out of nowhere, Ride the Cyclone, a unique, lesser-known Canadian-born musical would be releasing a cast recording. In a time where I am happy to recieve any new theater content, this news made me estatic, and I eagerly counted down the days until it dropped.

Co-creator Jacob Richmond thought the pandemic was the perfect time to release an album of his show, which is now avalible on Apple Music, Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music, and other online streaming services.  

“The show is after all a feel-good musical about untimely random death and loss,” he said in an interview with broadway.com “I’ve had a great glut of untimely random deaths in my family, so my initial impulse for starting this show was to brighten myself up by writing a musical comedy about the subject.”

While I was expecting the humor, darkness, and tounge-in-cheek feel, I was shocked to find that there were some parts of real sympathy for the characters and true emotion. The album completed exceeded every expectation I may have had for it, showcasing a completely unique and memorable show. 

The show centers around the six members of a high school choir who make the fatal mistake of taking a ride on The Cyclone, a rickety rollarcoaster. Tragically, the axle of their cart breaks at the peak of the loop-de-loop, sending the choir flying through the air. 

The six find themselves in an abandoned warehouse, greeted by a mechanical fortune teller. The Amazing Karnak, gifted with the ability to predict the life and death of everyone he encountered is filled with guilt for not warning the children ahead of time, and shares that he has the power to bring one and only one of them back to life.  

After Karnak’s offer, the show follows the choir’s strange celebration of hope and life as they perform one final concert. Through the concert, they aim to express in their own unique ways who they were, who they hoped they could be, and how they saw their life stuck in the same small town. This occurs all while competing against the others for the chance to live again. 

The cast recording does an excellent job of capturing the show. In fact, it changes some aspects to make it fit even better to the format. 

The Amazing Karnak, voiced in the album by Richmond himself, breaks the fourth wall between tracks to give humorously in-character insight on the action.

“This second movement of this section won’t make a lick of sense until you see it live,” he said at one point before a particularly weird sequence of songs. “And that, my friends, is a mater class in how to upcharge.”

Because of the use of Karnak’s narration, the show can be followed in a very clever way. 

Additionally, the recording uses sound effects that would not typically be used in a live theatrical performance to expertly create an ambience. It almost feels like listening to a podcast musical and getting the full experience instead of simply a cast recording.

The music itself is an eclectic mix. The actors do a great job of portraying the differing characters, supported by the different styles of music. 

The opening song “The Uranium Suite” sounds exactly like a cheesy high school choir selection, and brilliantly introduces the group and sets the tone for the next hour. Later, songs like “Sailing Through Space” and the finale, “It’s Just a Ride,” use the harmonies of the ensemble to establish the action in away that almost feels like the listener is riding The Cyclone with them. 

Tiffany Tatreau as Ocean O’Connell Rosenberg, the overly ambitious “most successful girl in town” choir leader (think a more self-aware Rachel Berry from Glee) leads the show with an enviable amount of energy and spirit. Meanwhile, Lillian Castillo playing Constance Blackwood, Ocean’s best friend and “the nicest girl in town,” brings sincere emotion and earnest to balance the more outrageous aspects of the show out.

A true highlight is Emily Rohm as the mystery contestant of the group, Jane Doe. In the show, Jane Doe was found with the others wearing a choir uniform but was never identified, and as such, she retained no memories of her life. She spends the show questioning who she was and what her future will be. 

Her song, “The Ballad of Jane Doe,” is one of the most impressive moments of the album. The backing up of the ensemble with Rohm’s operatic vocals is truly an iconic, haunting listening spectacle. 

Completing the choir are Kholby Wardell, Scott Redmond, and Chaz Duffy who all bring talent, humor, and emotion to their respective characters and songs. 

The show is certainly an absurd ride. Sometimes, it seems a bit scattered and the dark concept and humor may be a bit much for some listeners, while the different styles of music means that one must appreciate the show as a whole, instead of expecting one specific thing.   

However, the message that at the end of the day life is not a game to be won—but a ride to be enjoyed through all its up-and-downs—is a great statement and beautiful reminder, communicated extraordinarily well through a one-of-a-kind, twisted, hilarious musical and concept album.