Run, do not walk to get tickets to Ride the Cyclone by MCC, the newest cult musical that is sure become a sensation. This weirdly quirky new musical at the Lucille Lortel, is along the lines of Side Show or Bat Boy. Mark my words this musical is so well done, that you will be talking about it way past New Years.
The premise is not so appealing six glee club teenagers meet their demise on a rollercoaster and end up in carnival purgatory. What happens next is dictated to a point by the Amazing Karnak (Karl Hamilton), a Carney fortuneteller, the kind you pay your quarter to (think “Big” the movie). With a wicked sense of humor, he informs the group only one can be returned to the living if the group unanimously choose the lucky survivor. A game has been devised so that each participant can state his or her case. In a series of songs each memeber reveals their hopes, their dreams and who they really are deep inside.
Ocean O’Connell Rosenberg (Tiffany Tatreau), is an alpha personality thanks to her hippy parents. She sings her own praises and is like a female Alex Keatons from “Family Ties.” Ocean wants a world with people like me. She is condescending to everyone including her bestie, the chubby Constance Blackwood (Lillian Castillo). When Ocean learns the winner has to be chosen by an unanimous vote, Ocean does damage-control. Ms. Tatreau’s is hilarious as she tries to dominate.
Noel Gruber (Kholby Wardell), is the only gay kid from the small Canadian town where the Glee Club is from. Noel’s struts his bad stuff as a Marlene Dietrich esq “hooker with a heart of black charcoal,” in postwar France. Ala Kurt Weill this number is hysterically funny and so unique. Dr. Frank-N-Furter would be oh so jealous.
Mischa Bachinski (Gus Halper), is a Ukrainian alcoholic who has a fiancé that nobody believes exists. He is a cool would-be rapper who delivers, his number with swagger and bling.
The nerdy and formally disabled Ricky Potts (Alex Wyse) flings aside his crutches to claim his role as a prophet from another planet, where cats worship him.
Constance huddles in the shadow of Ocean and everyone else until she delivers an “Up With People,” type song. (Note to writers she deserves a better song.)
The sixth contestant, is only known as Jane Doe (Emily Rohm) because she was decapitated in the accident, and her head was never found. She is scary with coal-black contact lenses, stilted movements and a headless doll. She sings ala Olympia from “The Tales of Hoffmann.”
As for the cast they are for the most part all unknowns fabulously young and talented. I will not single them out because they are all spectacular.
Ride the Cyclone was born in Canadian and made its American premiere in Chicago last year. Written by Brooke Maxwell and Jacob Richmond this is one funny, well-written show with heart, soul and afterlife. I expect to see great things coming from this team. The show is directed and choreographed by Rachel Rockwell and she is a find. Much like Rachel Chafkin, the Rachel’s are rocking the theatre world. The set design by Scott Davis is impeccable. The lighting by Greg Hofman is delightfully eerie. The video projections (by Mike Tutaj) show us the pictorial stories of those in front of us, making this even more real. The special effects and illusions by Michael Curry Designs and Hat Rabbit Studio are spectacular. I really want to know how you did the number for Jane Doe, amazing! There is not one design element that isn’t perfection.
This is a show that needs to move and continue playing, so the word on the street can propel this future. I expect big things for this show come awards season. Ride the Cyclone is one of the best shows this season and definitely the most thought provoking and interesting.
Ride the Cyclone: MCC at the Lucille Lortel Theater, 121 Christopher St. until Dec. 23rd.