For the second production of its summer theatre festival, YES Theatre/STC is staging the Canadian musical “Ride the Cyclone,” which is on stage at the Sudbury Theatre Centre building from July 29 to Aug. 14.
In this hilarious and outlandish story, the lives of six teenagers from a Saskatchewan chamber choir are cut short in a freak accident aboard a roller coaster. When they awake, a fortune teller invites each to tell a story to win a prize like no other — the chance to return to life.
The world premiere production of “Ride the Cyclone” took place in Victoria, B.C., at Atomic Vaudeville in 2008. The show’s music, lyrics and book are all by Jacob Richmond and Brooke Maxwell.
Although the show subsequently found success as an off-Broadway hit, YES Theatre/STC is one of the first Canadian companies to stage the production since its original run.
“It's this really fantastic, wacky, zany, zany, and sort of heart-expanding, beautiful musical,” said YES Theatre founder Alessandro Costantini, who is directing the show.
“I saw the original production in Toronto in 2012. It was touring from Vancouver. I was completely floored by its emotional power, by how funny it was, and just how inventive and original it was, and specifically how it related to my own experience of growing up in a small town.
“The characters in this play are from Uranium City, Saskachewan. And it's a beautiful little secret gem of Canadian musical theatre.”
Although “Ride the Cyclone” is a relatively unknown piece, Costantini asks that people trust him and come out and see the show.
“It's always hard to kind of get bums in seats when people don’t know the piece, but we're really confident that when you see it, you will love it,” he said.
While the premise sounds morbid, Costantini said there’s nothing gruesome about the musical. He said it takes its colours from cult hits such as the “Rocky Horror Show” and “Little Shop of Horrors,” and is an “hour-and-a-half of a roller coaster ride of fun.”
The show stars Tessa Balaz as Jane, Trinity Thibeault as Ocean, April Perrin as Constance, Jake Deeth as Mischa, JP Parker as Noel, Jonathan Cullen as Ricky and Jude Alexander as Karnak.
Perrin, a Sudbury native who’s been involved with YES Theatre for nine years, is also the show’s choreographer.
She said her character, Constance, is a young girl who died in the crash who’s a bit of a wallflower.
“And then throughout the production, she kind of really flourishes,” Perrin said. “We see her true self come to life, and really see her as this wonderful, wonderfully grown and outgoing and quirky, teen young woman.”
Perrin said the show “really supports the narrative that is, you know, living life to the fullest and enjoying the ride while you're here.”
So far, YES Theatre/STC’s 2022 summer theatre festival has been enjoying success, even with the ongoing pandemic. Costantini said the first production of the summer, “The Wizard of Oz: In Concert,” sold 1,500 of 1,600 tickets available.
“So it was pretty much a sellout,” he said.
The summer theatre festival wraps up with Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s “Into the Woods,” which runs Sept. 16 to Oct. 9. “It tells the story of all the fairy tale creatures, but sort of smashed together,” said Costantini.
YES Theatre/STC finishes out 2022 with the holiday production of “Elf: The Musical,” based on the classic Will Ferrell holiday film, which will run Nov. 25 to Dec. 18.
Costantini, who’s currently the artistic director of both YES Theatre and STC as the companies are in merger talks, said their slate of productions from January through December 2023 will be announced this coming October.
If you wish to purchase tickets to “Ride the Cyclone” or any of YES Theatre/STC’s upcoming productions, you can do so online here.
Heidi Ulrichsen is the associate content editor at Sudbury.com. She also covers education and the arts scene.