On Monday, September 14th, they would board the cyclone roller coaster at 6:17 pm. At 6:19 pm, this same roller coaster's front axle would break, causing it to derail at the apex of the loop-de-loop, hurtling the children to their deaths!"
On the day that the members of St. Cassian High School chamber choir of Uranium City, Saskatchewan take a trip to the Wonderville Traveling Fairground, they ride the faulty "Cyclone" rollercoaster and are propelled to their untimely deaths when their cart derails.
Five teen choir members and one mysterious, headless girl arrive in limbo, only to be greeted by Wonderville's own mechanical Fortune Teller, "The Amazing Karnak." Karnak himself is not long for the world (what with his wiring being destroyed by a rat that's made its nest inside his case), but he does have legit mystical abilities and enough power to send one of the kids back to the land of the living. They just have to make the case as to why they deserve life over death... over the other five teens that arrived with them.
So begins Ride the Cyclone, an uproarious, tragi-comic musical about living, dying, and loving told from the point of view of a half a dozen dead teens vying for a second chance at life. Those teenagers are:
- Ocean O'Connell Rosenberg, an ambitious girl who believes she deserves a chance to make the world a better place (because according to Ocean, her classmates certainly won't)
- Noel Gruber, the only gay guy in a dying mining town (who dreams of living beautifully and dying tragically as a prostitute in post-war France)
- Mischa Bachinski, a refugee adopted from Ukraine and an aspiring rapper (with a hidden romantic side)
- Ricky Potts, a disabled teen whose degenerative disease left him mute in life (and who developed a fantastic, out-of-this-world persona to cope)
- Constance Blackwood, the "nicest girl in town" (who might be harboring some resentment under all her kindness)
- ...and "Jane Doe," a mysterious girl whose headless body was found in the wreckage of the crash and assumed to be a member of the choir
With book, music and lyrics by Jacob Richmond and Brooke Maxwell, Ride the Cyclone premiered as a cabaret at Atomic Vaudeville in 2008, later being adapted into a full-length show and playing across the U.S. and Canada.
A short trailer for the Alliance Theatre production is available on YouTube.
Tropes Appearing in Ride the Cyclone
- Academic Alpha Bitch: Ocean O'Connell Rosenberg has been choir president for nearly four years, student council president for two, and gotten straight "A"'s since she was in kindergarten. She measures her self worth in her achievements, and holds all her "friends" in the choir to her impossibly high standards.
- Adoption Angst: Mischa's adoptive Canadian parents thought they were getting a two-year-old Ukrainian toddler — instead they got Mischa, with a "five o'clock shadow and a hint of alcohol on his breath." Since they can't send him back they do the next best thing and ignore him, leaving meals outside his basement room and shooing him away whenever he tries to speak to them. This turned Mischa into "the angriest boy in town."
- Amusement Park: Wonderville Traveling Fairground, overlapping with Crappy Carnival and Amusement Park of Doom.
- Amusement Park of Doom: Wonderville Traveling Fairground, unintentionally. The rides are in such a state of disrepair that the roller coaster propels the teenagers to their death, kickstarting the plot.
- Auto-Tune: Mischa is an aspiring rapper (he goes by the name "Bad Egg" on his youtube page), and his first song makes gratuitous use of autotuning, parodying the "the last bastion of pure strength and masculinity in society: self-aggrandizing commercialized hiphop" of the 2000's.Mischa: I feel the rage. And when I rage, I rap about money and autotune. Autotune will never die!
- Back from the Dead: The Amazing Karnak has the ability to bring one of the six teenagers back to life. He makes this the "grand prize" of the evening, forcing the kids to vote on who amongst themselves deserves another shot at life.
- Bad Girl Song: Parodied in Noel's song, "Noel's Lament," a cabaret-inspired number where he fantasizes about being a "hooker with a heart of black charcoal" in post-war France. He describes his ideal life as a troubled but beautiful lady of the night — murdering Johns who mess with him, burning himself with cigarettes "just to prove that he's alive," getting addicted to opium, catching typhoid, and dying in an alley.
- Boastful Rap: A Justified example — Mischa aspires to become a famous, wealthy rapper. His first song, "This Song is Awesome," parodies the style of 2000's Hip-Hop.Mischa: Lounging with my homies, Friday night scene
PlayStation's up on my 60-inch screen.
McNuggets in the bag, Cristal's on tap,
new toothbrush from Tiffany's still in the bubblewrap.
Track lights glowing like nuclear sciences
sparkling all over my stainless steel appliances.
I'm shinning like Midas, I'm the king of ka-ching,
everything I touch goes bling-bling-bling!
- Breast Attack: Constance punches Ocean in the breast when she can no longer put up with Ocean's self-centered attitude and backhanded compliments.
- Bullying the Disabled: As part of her "I Am Great!" Song, Ocean belittles all of her classmates for their lack of potential and "personal failings" compared to her — and with Ricky, she pulls no punches when it comes to his disability. She confidently tells her classmates Ricky's "never gonna breed," and questions how much mileage he'd get out of a second shot at life with his degenerative disease.Ocean: Oh no, comic books? Spiderman?
This kid doesn't have the attention span!
What's he gonna do, solve a Rubik's cube?
How long's he got if they feed him through a tube?
- Catchphrase: Lampshaded and Parodied — when The Amazing Karnak gives the introduction for each kid, he includes their catchphrase alongside information like their star sign and favorite carnival ride. Ricky might be the only one to take it seriously, using his catchphrase unironically in conversation now that he's able to speak.Ocean: Democracy rocks!Noel: Being the only gay man in a small rural high school is like having a laptop in the stone age. I mean sure, you can have one, but there's nowhere to plug it in...Mischa: My gangsta persona is just armor to conceal that I am a naked child wandering through the wilderness, holding in my hands my wounded, fragile heart.Ricky: Level up!Constance: Sorry!Jane Doe: When the lioness has children, she stops making love to the lion. The lion gets jealous, sometimes so jealous he eats the children. You'd think this would upset the lioness; far from it. They make love again like the children never existed. I find that idea terrifying.
- Compliment Backfire: During a tender moment when the choir holds a birthday celebration for Jane Doe, Ocean gives Constance a series of Backhanded Compliments, while sincerely believing she's saying something nice:Ocean: You know I envy you?Constance: No you don't Ocean.Ocean: No, I do. I mean, I got straight "A"s since I was in grade one. I was working towards something. I was building a life. You? You were satisfied doing nothing! Making cupcakes, eating them. You are what the Taoists call an un-carved block.Constance: I'm a block?Ocean: Just learn to take a compliment!Constance: Thanks.
- Crappy Carnival: Wonderville Traveling Fairground — a cheap, poorly maintained traveling carnival and amusement park that unintentionally kills riders on it's faulty rollercoaster.
- Creepy Doll:
- The headless antique doll carried by Jane Doe.
- The Uncanny Valley Makeup on the actress playing Jane Doe is meant to evoke a creepy doll (with the implication that Jane Doe is using the doll's head a replacement for her own lost skull). Most productions include porcelain-pale skin, blacked-out contact lenses, and a blonde wig with ringletts.
- Dead to Begin With: The show begins with the teen choir members dying and arriving in limbo.
- Dramatis Personae: The Amazing Karnak gives the audience an "introduction" to each of the six teens before they sing their song. It includes their full name, birthdate, star sign, favorite amusement park ride, Catchphrase, and a quick recap of their life story.
- Emotionless Girl: Jane Doe lost her head and memories in the accident, and now uses a doll's head as a replacement. As such, she doesn't emote well in conversation, or understand the nuances of body language and sarcasm. Even the character notes describe her as a someone who "reacts in a literal way and largely without emotion, almost robot-like; the other contestants are totally freaked out by her."
- Extreme Doormat: Constance has won the "Nicest Girl in Town" award in her class three years in a row because she's kind and thoughtful and friendly — but she also lets her best friend walk all over her.
- Fever Dream Episode: Ricky's song, "Space Aged Bachelor Man," is presented as a reminiscence of the dream he had after attending an all-you-can-eat dinner at Uranium's Red Lobster, with the Potts family's fourteen pet cats sleeping at the foot of his bed.
- Foreseeing My Death: Along with being able to predict the exact time, place, and cause of death of all his customers, The Amazing Karnak is also able to predict his own demise. At the start of the show, he tells the audience he's got a little more than an hour before a rat chews through his power cable.
- Fortune Teller: The Amazing Karnak is an amusement park fortune telling robot who just so happened to be gifted with self-awareness and the legitimate ability to predict the time, place, and cause of anyone's death — including his own.The Amazing Karnak: I was designed to predict the exact cause, time and place of someones death. A rather morbid function, I grant you. Which is precisely why I was set on family fun novelty mode when sold to the Wonderville Traveling Fairground. Turns out being told the place and time of your death in front of your family, with a mouthful of corn dog at a fairground, is the very opposite of fun.
- Fourth-Wall Observer:
- The Amazing Karnak, whose in-universe psychic powers allow him to serve as both a character in and the self-aware narrator of the show:
- In his opening monologue he addresses the audience directly, making a comment about "who gets which armrest" and silencing cellphones before the show starts.
- He reads aloud the Dramatis Personae-esque character introductions throughout the show to familiarize the audience with the other characters.
- The Amazing Karnak also forewarns the audience that the show will effectively end when he dies in "little over an hour" (said at the beginning a show with an approximate ~90 minute runtime), as he won't be around to narrate anymore.
- To a lesser extent there is also Virgil, the rat chewing through Karnak's power cables. Although his narrative function is limited to inadvertently killing The Amazing Karnak, the character of Virgil is meant to be played by the bassist of the live band that provides music for the show. "Virgil" spends the show outside the context of the narrative while he provides the musical backdrop for the other characters to perform against, returning to the story at the end to kill off Karnak.
- The Amazing Karnak, whose in-universe psychic powers allow him to serve as both a character in and the self-aware narrator of the show:
- Genre Roulette: The musical ricochetes between different musical stylings to reflect the wildly different tastes and personalities of the six main characters.
- Ghost Amnesia: Exaggerated in the case of Jane Doe, who arrives at the afterlife without a head. She's missing all the memories of who she was in life, even her name and what she looked like. The actress who plays Jane Doe carries a headless doll and is made up with porcelain-pale skin, a pale blonde wig, and blacked-out contact lenses, as if Jane Doe has taken the doll's head for her own.
- Ghost Song: Nearly every song in the musical, by virtue of being sung by ghosts. The only ones that don't count are "Sailing Through Space" (sung seconds before the cast's death) and "Uranium" (which is sung in a flashback).
- Go-Getter Girl: Ocean O'Connell Rosenberg is a classic overachiever. She's been president of the choir for nearly four years, class president for two, and she plans to be the Prime Minister of Canada when she grows up.
- Guy-on-Guy Is Hot: Constance gets very, very distracted by Mischa kissing Noel during "Noel's Lament."Constance: I'm still distracted. I'm still thinking about that time those two boys kissed.
- Hippie Parents: The O'Connell-Rosenberg household is helmed by two extreme hippies who gave their daughter the name "Ocean." Despite her upbringing, she turned out nothing like the rest of her family.The Amazing Karnak: Ocean was born into a family of far-left-of-center Humanists, who moved to northern Saskatchewan to live a carbon-free lifestyle. The hemp needlepoint sign above the household's toilet read "If it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown scoop it out with your hand and put it in the compost." Yet in between all the drum circles, Marxist parables, and cheese sandwiches made of human breast milk, Ocean could never shake the feeling she was the White Sheep of her family.
- Hormone-Addled Teenager: Most of the teenage characters express a certain interest in relationships and sex, especially now that they've died (presumably) without the chance of getting any. Noel complains that being the only gay man in town left him with no romantic prospects, and his song — while a parody of the typical Bad Girl Song — imagines a life where he's allowed to lose himself in carnal pleasures. Under his tough-guy "gangsta" veneer, Mischa was deeply in love with his internet girlfriend Talia, and dreamed of the day they would get married. Ricky's unfulfilled make-a-wish request was to "make love in zero gravity," and his song describes a fantasy wherein he plays a galaxy-hopping hero who saves a race of sexy cat-people with his "seed". Constance snuck away from the choir and had sex with a carnival worker in a porta-potty hours before she died, likely out of a sense of self-loathing.
- "I Am Great!" Song: Subverted in Ocean's number, "What the World Needs is People Like Me," where she expounds on how driven, passionate, and successful she is while gleefully putting down her fellow choir members. Ocean lovingly describes them as future drug addicts, criminals, and losers. She divines her best friend Constance's future as a "soccer mom, minivan, four little brats, no steady man!" whose greatest achievement will be as an eventual "organ donor," and calls Jane Doe "a freaky monster!"Chorus: Yes there's a problem-Ocean: I'm the solution!
Darwin had a theory called-Chorus: Evolution!Ocean: Put it into words, but it plain to see,
We need a little less of them, a little more of me!
- Jacob Marley Apparel: Both Played Straight and Downplayed. The teens died in a horrific roller coaster crash, but as ghosts their bodies are largely whole and uninjured. They show up in the afterlife in their school uniforms, and Ricky Potts finds that as a ghost his disability no longer keeps him from walking, dancing, singing, or playing the accordion. Jane Doe, on the other hand, was decapitated in the crash and her head was never located. As a ghost, her skull has been replaced with a creepy doll's head.
- The Journey Through Death: The dead teens are stuck in a sort of limbo with The Amazing Karnak before five of them go on being dead and one gets to return to life. The final number of the show, "It's A Ride," is sung after Jane Doe is sent back to the land of the living and the remaining five journey onwards to "whatever comes next."
- Lead Bassist: The rat that's chewing through The Amazing Karnak's power cables is named Virgil, and he takes the role of frontman for the four-piece band that provides musical backing for the show... as a bassist.The Amazing Karnak: Meet my executioner. A rat I've named Virgil. For the last two years, Virgil has been steadily chewing on my power cable. In little over an hour, Virgil shall chew his way through the rubber, biting down on 200 volts of electricity; instantly killing us both. As there is nothing more base than death, I've decided that for tonight's concert Virgil will play the bass.
- Melancholy Musical Number: Jane Doe's song, "The Ballad of Jane Doe." She laments not knowing who she was in life, having no memories of her time on Earth, and not knowing what will happen to her spirit if she passes on — the only thing she knows for certain is that no-one claimed her body or mourned her passing.Jane Doe: Oh no soul, and no name
And no story, what a shame
Cruel existence was only a sham?
Oh St. Peter, let me in!
You must know where I've been
Won't you tell me at least who I am?
- Mysterious Stranger: Exaggerated with the Mystery Contestant, "Jane Doe," who is unknown to all the students (none of them can remember her), and The Amazing Karnak (he didn't read her fortune, so he doesn't know who she is), and to herself (she lost her head in the accident, and arrived in limbo without any memories of her life on Earth).Jane Doe: "Jane Doe" is what the coroner said.
They found my body, not my head.
No parents came, and so they never learned my name,
or who I used to be. My life, an unsolved mystery.
From ashes I was made, and ashes I return...
and so I walk alone and wonder "why?"
Why? Why? Why?
- "No Talking or Phones" Warning: As part of his opening monologue, The Amazing Karnak tells audience members to turn off their cell phones, telling the audience that none of the calls they'll receive in the next hour and a half will be important — except for one.
- One-Woman Song: Mischa's second song is "Talia," which takes its name from his internet girlfriend. Most of the lyrics are her name, repeated over and over again.
- Only You Can Repopulate My Race: Played totally straight in "Space Aged Bachelor Man." Ricky's song recounts the fever dream of a hormone-addled nerd, wherein he is approached by the sexy cat-people of the Zolarian Galaxy, who need his "seed" to save their race. During the course of the song, the female Zolarians beg him to save their galaxy by making love to them, while the male Zolarians thank him for "laying with their daughters."
- Opium Den: Mentioned in Noel's Bad Girl Song, "Noel's Lament," as part of the downward spiral of the prostitute in post-war France Noel wished he could be.Noel: So now I sell my love for opium,
In some rat-infested Chinese dive.
- Prophecy Twist: Lampshaded when Karnak introduces himself to the teens and spells out how they'll select who gets to return to life.Ocean: What do we have to do to be brought back to life?The Amazing Karnak: The one who wants to win it the most shall redeem the loser in order to complete the whole.Ocean: That doesn't make any sense.The Amazing Karnak: I trade mostly in prophecies that don't make any sense until they actually do.
- Selfless Wish: As Karnak finds himself running out of time and the teens unable to reach a consensus as to who should be revived, he changes the rules of the game and gives Ocean the deciding vote, "based on grade point average." With a second shot at life all but assured, Ocean resolves that she can't vote for herself because that would be undemocratic. She argues that Jane Doe ought to be the one returned to life, as Jane Doe had no memory of her life, while the other choir members had a lifetime of memories to comfort them. Of course, Karnak had predicted earlier that "the one who wants to win it the most shall redeem the loser," so he already knew how that would play out.
- Small Town Boredom: Uranium is a shrinking, insignificant little mining town in northern Saskatchewan, home to the six dead teenagers. Noel was working in a Taco Bell in the mall because he wanted to save up enough money to move to France, Mischa wanted to become a famous rapper and move back to Ukraine to be with his online girlfriend, and Ocean wanted to leave Uranium so she could make a difference in the world. The only person in the group who ever expressed any fondness for Uranium was Constance, and she was teased mercilessly by her classmates for liking their hometown. Several lines in "Sailing Through Space" reference their fears that they'll never leave the town — a tragic irony because all six of them die (and five remain dead) without having gotten the chance to move away.
- This Is a Song: Mischa's first song, "This Song is Awesome," which contains lines like "this hook is awesome," "this beat is awesome," and of course "this song is awesome."
- Throwing Off the Disability: A Justified example — arriving in limbo, Ricky Potts discovers that the degenerative disease that robbed his body of the ability to walk and talk (and that would have eventually killed him) no longer affects his ghostly form. He no longer needs his crutches to move around, and he spends the rest of the musical dancing, singing, and playing the accordion.
- Title Drop: The Amazing Karnak was set to family fun novelty mode when he was bought by the park, leaving him only able to say "Your lucky number is 8. Ride the Cyclone."
- Undead Child: All the teenagers are ghosts, but Jane Doe is the only one to play up the creepiness (by virtue of not having a head). Even the other dead teens are creeped out by her.
- White Sheep: The O'Connell-Rosenbergs aren't evil, per-se, they're just aged hippies trying their best to raise a kid in a carbon-neutral lifestyle in a podunk town in Saskatchewan. Ocean, by contrast, is a pushy, relentlessly self-centered overachiever who thrives on structure, order, and "democracy" (read: meritocracy). She excels when given a framework where she can measure her self-worth via her achievements, so she loved going to a rule-filled Catholic school.