I always use the excuse of going up to Atlanta on other business as a good excuse to stay in town and see something. The hardest choice is always What? or Where? Should I check out the latest show at Horizon, where the intimate space and imaginative staging rarely disappoints? Or slide over to Synchronicity, whose feminist slant never lets me down? I confess a wild love for Actor’s Express, because they do both challenging new works as well as challenging classic work, like a stunning “Equus” several years back.
Knowing I had a doctor to see last week, I checked the calendar and made the call: It was the last week for “Ride the Cyclone” at Alliance. Didn’t know a thing about the show and frankly, I’ve seen stuff at Alliance that was distinctly underwhelming (remembering you, ‘Ghost Brothers’). But the premise was intriguing and I bought my ticket.
Sometimes you do get lucky. What a ride. I can’t remember the last time I was so thrilled, so captivated by a production.
The technical values were wonderful and served the story well. There’s a moment of sheer magic in the second half that made my world weary heart gasp. Imagine, if you will, an operatic soprano floating in mid-air, singing a hauntingly beautiful, achingly human lament, singing her heart out – and now imagine her doing it upside down.
It was my first time inside the now renovated theatre and I believe they’ve spent the budget well. This production incorporated projections that were as tight and focused as I’ve ever seen. And again, the screens enhanced the story and didn’t distract – which is exactly what good tech should do.
The story of the doomed choir of Saint Cassian – a group of teens that goes on a roller coaster ride that ends in tragedy and song – was framed nicely inside a carnival of Purgatory and narrated by a fortunetelling machine. Think Zoltar, in the movie ‘BIG’. The author’s of this piece, Jacob Richmond and Brooke Maxwell – who did it all, Book, Music and Lyrics – chose wisely. When you’ve got a tricky, complicated story to tell, it’s usually a fine choice to find someone to narrate – the glue that holds the whole together. With The Amazing Karnak – deftly played by Karl Hamilton – you’ve got a narrator who is both otherworldly and oddly human. Make him cheeky as well, and he’s a great asset. From the beginning of the show, Karnak’s blithe prediction of not only the teens’ imminent demise but also his own sets the stakes high.
I have mentioned this is a musical, right? Left the theatre with one melody in my head and a week later, it’s still there. Yesterday I went online and looked for the soundtrack that sadly, doesn’t exist. I hope someone will rectify that soon. Yes, it’s that good. Every song illuminates character and some feature show-stopping moments.
The cast, simply flawless. Most have been with the show since its original incarnation in Chicago and went with the ride Off-Broadway. The one Atlanta addition, Chazz Duffy, was an inspired choice and I’ll bet he’ll be taking the ride again, soon.
I’ve only got one regret: I wish I’d seen “Ride the Cyclone” in its first week. Because I would have bought another ticket.