Saturday, November 26, 2016

Ride the Cyclone *** B

I wish I had not read the rapturous Chicago reviews of this offbeat musical by Brooke Maxwell and Jacob Richmond now playing in an MCC production at the Lucille Lortel Theater. My expectations were so high that I ended up being slightly disappointed. The plot is unusual in that the characters are all dead when the show begins. Six teenagers from the chamber choir of St. Cassian School in Uranium City, Saskatchewan have just been killed in a freak roller coaster accident. They find themselves in a macabre purgatory presided over by The Amazing Karnak (Karl Hamilton), a mechanical fortune teller who has the power to grant one of them a return to life. Ocean O’Connell Rosenberg (Tiffany Tatreau), born to hippie parents, is an obnoxious overachiever. Constance Blackwood (Lillian Castillo), the chubby nice girl, is Ocean’s best friend. Noel Gruber (Kholby Wardell), the only gay boy in town, idolizes Marlene Dietrich. Ricky Potts (Alex Wyse), a nerd with a physical disability, dreams of being an intergalactic superhero. Mischa Bachinski (Gus Halper) puts on a tough act but is a romantic at heart, longing for his fiancee back in the Ukraine. Finally, there is the mysterious Jane Doe (the vocally blessed Emily Rohm), who was decapitated in the accident, whom her fellow students do not recognize and whose body remained unclaimed. Each teenager sings a song to make the case for being the one chosen to return to life. The eclectic score has a wide variety of styles from pop rock to hip hop to faux Ukrainian folk song. The performers are all appealing. The scenic design by Scott Davis is wonderful, as are the costumes by Theresa Ham and the projections by Mike Tutaj. The choreography by Rachel Rockwell, who also directed, is lively. Why then was I slightly disappointed? In trying to tell us enough to care about each character, the show occasionally loses momentum. The interaction between the students and Karnak drops out for an extended stretch. The ending somehow did not have the impact I anticipated. Nevertheless, there is much to admire, particularly for a younger audience. If you liked “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” which I was reminded of, you will probably enjoy this show. Running time: one hour 40 minutes; no intermission.

No comments: