Review: Ride the Cyclone (Atomic Vaudeville, Acting Up Stage Company and Theatre Passe Muraille)

Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille in collaboration with Acting Up Stage Company present Atomic Vaudeville’s Ride the Cyclone through December 3.

I’ve been figuratively waiting in line to “Ride the Cyclone” for about a year and a half now. This delightfully quirky little musical by Victoria, B.C.’s Atomic Vaudeville was the hit of the 2010 SummerWorks festival and, like many, I was left in the cold while trying to get tickets during the sold out latter part of the show’s all-too-short run here two summers ago.

Luckily, for those of us who couldn’t get tickets, Acting Up Stage Company and Theatre Passe Muraille have brought this traveling carnival back to town for another engagement. Like waiting in line for a roller coaster ride, the constant stream of positive buzz the show has garnered since its SummerWorks debut has only heightened my excitement and raised my level of anticipation for the show. Ultimately, I was not disappointed.

Hilariously bizarre, Ride the Cyclone is like Glee if it were written by Sarah Silverman and designed by Tim Burton. I love the wry comedic tone and slightly off-kilter style of the show.

Written by Jacob Richmond, the story is intriguing; after a small chamber choir from a Catholic high school in the small, declining town of Uranium, Saskatchewan dies in a freak roller coaster accident at a travelling fair their ghosts return to deliver one final recital.

A creepy mechanical fortune-teller is our narrator as one by one the students step up to the microphone to talk and sing about their lives. Coming of age stories about teen angst and the awkwardness of youth lead to flights of fantasy and existential crises as they each imagine how their lives could have turned out.

While I found the characters a bit too idiosyncratic to be completely sympathetic, I nonetheless found them oddly relatable and often likeable.

Rielle Braid, Matthew Coulson, Kelly Hudson, Elliott Loran, Sarah Jane Pelzer and Kholby Wardell are incredibly talented and versatile performers. They adeptly weave through the many styles of music featured in Brooke Maxwell’s score; from gospel to hip hop and even David Bowie-style ‘70s glam rock. This truly is an ensemble cast and there isn’t a single weak link.

Atomic Vaudeville cut their theatrical teeth by producing a series of cabarets in Victoria. Ride the Cyclone has the structure and feel of a cabaret and is a great example of company’s deftness with the format. The show pushes the cabaret into new artistic directions.

The production has recently been touring the country with stops in Vancouver and Whitehorse. I hope they keep booking new runs in more places. It’s original and fun and deserves a bigger audience. In fact, the show has a quirky style that would make it a perfect fit for an Off-Broadway run.

But for now, don’t miss your chance to catch it while it’s here in Toronto. In the end “The Cyclone” was a thrilling ride that was definitely worth the wait.


  • Ride the Cyclone is playing at Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Ave, Toronto) until December 3, 2011
  • Shows run Tuesday to Saturday at 7:30PM and Saturdays at 2 PM.
  • Tickets: $15-$35 + HST & service charges
  • Tickets are also available by calling  Box Office: 416.504.7529 or online at

Photo credit:

–       Photo of the company by Tim Matheson.