I went to see Ride The Cyclone at Passe Muraille tonight; I really enjoyed the show when I saw it at SummerWorks last year, and was glad to get a chance to see the slightly-revamped version. My previous review still stands (with some slightly-revamped observations); do see the show if you can. It's a wonderfully quirky musical that's full of heart, and I've been unable to decide whether it's one of the funniest depressing shows I've seen, or one of the most depressing funny shows. (This is the sort of line it's riding.) There's been an actor change (Matthew Coulson plays Misha Bachinsky with a new ballet-inflected rap flair), but the beats have mostly stayed the same.
The thing I'm most pleased about in this remount is that we get more moments where the characters are real, human, three-dimensional, and sad; some of the archer moments that seemed to be there for sheer incongruity have been taken out. In my last review I complained about the intrusion of nonsense lyrics about a cartoon bear and the appearance of a bear costume; this has been excised (naturally, as a random Internet blogging dramaturg, I feel entirely responsible for this). In recompense, we get more of the haunting moments that feel like splashes of cold water amidst the warmth that zany humour brings. Jane Doe (Sarah Pelzer) has a longer solo with which to beguile and chill us, the operatic soprano notes floating effortlessly above the choreographed circus cabaret. Ocean's (Rielle Braid) sudden realization that she will never eat beavertails while visiting her mother in Ottawa again was a small emotional moment that I'm not sure is new but was certainly highlighted beautifully. The spooky atmosphere that I loved last time around holds up well on second viewing, as do the very impressive voices of the cast. (I did, however, find the balance and blend occasionally slightly off in some of the choral bits; I wasn't sure whether the high-strung, Type-A Ocean was attempting to overpower the other voices as a character choice or not. It's a very small quibble, however.)
I was left with a question with the realization that the climax of Ocean's debate scene (the opponent in the wheelchair, the topic of whether humans are good) is the same scenario (resolved differently) of one of the few episodes of Community I've gotten a chance to see. Strange coincidence, or nod to the show?
I'm very happy that the show appears to be selling out; it was tonight, with a number of added seats. It appears to be one of those rare shows that has deservedly found its eager audience. That's probably because it's a hell of a ride.