The theater world has changed from days of yore! We used to have dramas, comedies and musicals as our three major types of fare, but the menu has increased to include cabaret and cult movements. Shows that are done in “rap”, chamber musicals (where the music is the dialogue) and even cabaret musicals, not to be confused with Kander & Ebb’s “Cabaret”. Navy Pier’s Chicago Shakespeare Theater (upstairs/studio) is a great place to bring new works to, because of the intimacy of the “black box” venue. The current production upstairs is a Canadian work making its United States Premiere- “Ride The Cyclone”, a part comedy, part tragedy that takes us away from reality for 90 spellbinding minutes.
The show itself is difficult to explain, but try to think of a recipe that contains elements from the film “Big”, the musical review(s). “Forever Plaid” and “Plaid Tidings” (its sequel) and “The Putnam County Spelling Bee” all rolled into one musical piece. The story takes place in a warehouse where a machine, a fortune telling machine called The Amazing Karnak (wasn’t that a Johnny Carson, character) introduces us to the saga we are about to witness. A story about six teens who died in a roller coaster accident are stuck in limbo awaiting their final fate. Karnak, who himself, if one can call a mechanical person, “himself”, is about to see his existence end, offers these teens an opportunity to return to live- only one will live. Who will that one be? And why?
This show, which might be called a “work in progress” is a mixture of musical story telling and vaudeville type acts. This was started in Canada as more of a “cabaret” piece and has developed a cult following almost akin to “Rocky Horror” but with a much smaller audience base. Judging on the response to the full house at CST ( on a Wednesday night) this could easily be the case for this quirky, eerie and somewhat edgy show. What makes the show work? Forst of all, it is in the hands of the Award Winning director/choreographer, Rachel Rockwell. Need I say any more? Her creativity is unique and fitting for a show featuring music from almost every genre- Pop, Rock, Brechtian cabaret and of course Rap. Under the musical direction of another solid talent, Doug Peck the music and lyrics (along with the book) by Jacob Richmond and Brooke Maxwell takes flight with ease to our ears and our minds.
The set (Scott Davis), costumes (Theresa Ham), lighting (Greg Hofmann), sound (Palmer Jankins) and projections (Mike Tutaj, who sets the pace for all in his field) are all major parts of making this show truly work. The wig and make-up segments by Melissa Veal are of utmost importance in this eerie tale, but it is the talent that Ms Rockwell has on the stage that makes this a promising show that should find life on another stage after its run at CST is over;
Karl Hamilton is powerful in his mechanical man come to life, Karnak and the six kids are amazing talents as well. Ocean O’Connell Rosenberg (Tiffany Tatreau making her debut in Chicago has a strong voice, a great stage presence and is a name you will see from stage to stage), Lillian Castillo is a hoot in the comedic role of Constance Blackwood and Emily Rohm (who continues to wow me with her talent to play roles of every type) plays the character of Jane Doe, the student who lost her head during the accident. The male teens are; Jackson Evans as Ricky Potts, Russell Mernagh as the Ukrainian with a difference, and the entrancing Kholby Wardell, who has been with the show in many of its incarnations. All of the characters have solo numbers that get deeper into their inner beings ( like in “Spelling Bee”), but these are unique, different and very “Rocky Horror” type.
Seven actors with solid talent- six who sing and dance in addition to the acting ( Hamilton is in the box onstage for the entire 90 minutes) a director/choreographer who knows her stuff and a musical director who can make any music ring true- what else can you ask for? This is the start of something that could become a new cult show for the United States and we may see this show around for many years. This is unique story-telling and a story that is worth telling. “Ride The Cyclone” will continue at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier through November 8th ( they may be able to add a week) with performances as follows:
|Sat, Oct 17:||3:00pm & 8:00pm|
|Sun, Oct 18:||2:00pm|
|Tue, Oct 20:||7:30pm|
|Wed, Oct 21:||7:30pm|
|Thu, Oct 22:||7:30pm|
|Fri, Oct 23:||7:30pm|
|Sat, Oct 24:||3:00pm & 8:00pm|
|Sun, Oct 25:||2:00pm|
|Tue, Oct 27:||7:30pm|
|Wed, Oct 28:||7:30pm|
|Thu, Oct 29:||7:30pm|
|Fri, Oct 30:||7:30pm|
|Sat, Oct 31:||3:00pm & 8:00pm|
|Sun, Nov 1:||2:00pm|
|Tue, Nov 3:||7:30pm|
|Wed, Nov 4:||7:30pm|
|Thu, Nov 5:||7:30pm|
|Fri, Nov 6:||7:30pm|
|Sat, Nov 7:||3:00pm & 8:00pm|
|Sun, Nov 8:||2:00pm|
|Discounted parking at Navy Pier garage|
Show Type: Musical
Box Office: 312-595-5600
Running Time: 1hr, 30 mins
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com go to Review Round-up and click at “Ride The Cyclone”