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Ride the Cyclone
Photograph: Joan Marcus

Theater review: Ride the Cyclone roller-coaster musical's on bumpy rails

By David Cote

Imagine the kids from Glee in a Final Destination spoof directed by Tim Burton and you get the campy-creepy vibe of Ride the Cyclone, a quirky Canadian show that arrives Off Broadway via Chicago. In a best-case scenario, this revue-turned-musical would have simmered in its influences (which include comic books and the Brothers Quay) long enough to release original flavors, but a lengthy cooking time has only resulted in a derivative, if energetically plated stew.

Six teenagers from the Saint Cassian High School Chamber Choir were victims of a horrific roller-coaster accident near Uranium City, Canada. Our narrator—a mechanical fortune-telling machine called the Amazing Karnak (drolly voiced by Karl Hamilton)—informs us that the kids now occupy a limbo between life and death, but one of them will be allowed to survive. (Karnak himself faces imminent oblivion, since a bass-playing rat is gnawing through his power cable.) Each student must sing for their lives: the gay misfit (Kholby Wardell), the straight-A snob (Tiffany Tatreau) and the plus-size  doormat (Lillian Castillo), among others. The decapitated Jane Doe (Emily Rohm, with a spine-tingling soprano and black-tinted contact lenses) is the true outsider: Lacking a head, she doesn’t even get to be a stereotype.

Cyclone earns points for its hectic mix of misanthropic satire and small-town melancholy, and the eclectic score keeps things lively—Brooke Maxwell and Jacob Richmond's tunes run the gamut from Ukrainian rap to French chanson and indie pop. But at 100 minutes, this gaudily hand-painted car trundles along after the thrill has faded.

Lucille Lortel Theatre (Off Broadway). Book by Jacob Richmond. Music and lyrics by Brooke Maxwell and Richmond. Directed and choreographed by Rachel Rockwell. With Alex Wyse, Gus Halper, Johnny Newcomb, Emily Walton, Lillian Castillo, Karl Hamilton, Emily Rohm, Tiffany Tatreau and Kholby Wardell. Running time: 1hr 40mins. No intermission. Through Dec 29. Click here for full ticket and venue information. 

Follow David Cote on Twitter: @davidcote       

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