Ride The Cyclone

by | Jun 1, 2024

Review by Tim Garratt


Ride the Cyclone is not strictly a new musical; it was first staged in 2008 in Canada. In 2015, Chicago hosted the first US production and now, in 2024, it’s having its long-awaited Australian premiere at Sydney’s Hayes Theatre Co.

With music, lyrics and book by Jacob Richmond and Brooke Maxwell, Ride the Cyclone centres on a group of deceased high schoolers who were members of a choir. The teens find themselves in an abandoned warehouse at an old amusement park in the fictitious Uranium City. All five died in an accident involving the park’s Cyclone rollercoaster.

The group encounters the Amazing Karnak, a fortune-telling machine that predicts the cause, time, and place of a person’s death. The machine invites the teens to play a game, in which the winner will have the chance to return to life. But who is most deserving of that opportunity? That’s a question they’ll have to resolve themselves.

Directed by Richard Carroll, Hayes Theatre Co.’s Ride the Cyclone is a wildly entertaining and well-executed production, jam-packed with amusing episodes. It’s tremendously quirky, teaming moments of farce with scenes that provoke serious questions, and it’s ultimately even somewhat life-affirming. It’s perhaps a great anecdote for an existential crisis, reminding us of the inevitable peaks and valleys in each person’s individual journey.



The score has a slew of earworms, combining vaudeville, pop, rock, folk and musical theatre. It’s an apt soundscape for the show’s liminal setting, and it’s wonderfully reproduced in this intimate space by Victoria Falconer’s band of five. Benjamin Brockman’s set, together with Ryan McDonald’s lights, create a physical environment that appropriately locates us in a decrepit warehouse and clearly evokes a sense of the other-worldly. AV elements by Daniel Herten are also well incorporated.

But it’s the excellent cast that is most integral in making Ride the Cyclone a memorable night. Despite only being present in voice, the incomparable Pamela Rabe is a powerful force as the Amazing Karnark, leading the group through this bizarre contest for the chance to return to the realm of the living.

As the grating overachiever Ocean, Karis Oka fires on all cylinders from start to finish. Bailey Dunnage makes a marvellous Hayes debut as Noel, the overly dramatic film noir connoisseur who idolises Marlene Dietrich. Dunnage’s sizeable skills mean his number ‘Monique Gibeau’ is an early show highlight. Meanwhile, Lincoln Elliott holds his own as Mischa, the aggressive teen with a penchant for gangsta rap, and Justin Gray succeeds as the highly imaginative Ricky, who’s unable to speak.

Rounding out the cast, Ava Madon showcases a clarion soprano in her portrayal of the enigmatic and tragic Jane Doe, and Mel O’Brien makes her mark as Constance, the kind but unheard young woman who, when given the chance to tell her story, prompts her peers’ re-evaluation of their own life experiences.

Ride the Cyclone has its worthy takeaways but, primarily, it’s a heck of a lot of fun. Importantly, it’s also an ideal opportunity to catch a first-class troupe premiering a celebrated international work on a Sydney stage.



Dates: Now playing until Saturday, 22 June 2024

Venue: Hayes Theatre Co (19 Greenknowe Avenue, Elizabeth Bay)
To purchase tickets, click here.

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