What: Ride the Cyclone
Where: Phoenix Theatre, University of Victoria
When: Dec. 12 though 15 (preview show on Dec. 11)
Tickets: $35, $28 (preview is $20) at 250-721-8000
The glittering lights of Broadway loom ever closer.
So hopes Victoria's Atomic Vaudeville, poised to remount its latest version of Ride the Cyclone next week.
When it opens at the University of Victoria on Tuesday, one of Broadway's top producers will be in the audience. Kevin McCollum is flying in to vet the revamped show.
Playwright Jacob Richmond and composer Brooke Maxwell co-created Ride the Cyclone, an acclaimed black-comedy musical about teens who perish in a freak roller-coaster accident.
McCollum is considered one of the most successful Broadway producers of the past two decades. He produced the Canadian-made musical The Drowsy Chaperone on Broadway in 2006. That show won five Tony awards and was staged in Toronto, Los Angeles, London and Japan. McCollum also helped produce such Tony-winning Broadway shows as Rent and Avenue Q.
For the past 18 months he's worked with the creators of Ride the Cyclone. Asked whether the Victoria show has a shot at Broadway, McCollum would not be pinned down.
"Ride the Cyclone will get its day in the States, if I have anything to do with it. Broadway - that's a couple more interviews away," he said Wednesday in a phone interview from Dallas.
Broadway shows sometimes have out-of-town tryouts before opening in New York City.
"I think it's getting ahead of myself to even prognosticate what it would be," McCollum added. "I believe this could work anywhere. I believe it could work in Paris, London, Australia, New Zealand."
Following a weeklong run in Victoria, Ride the Cyclone will play Calgary's High Performance Rodeo on Jan. 9 before touring to major theatres in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Saskatoon. It will complete its Western Canadian tour in Nanaimo April 25 to 29.
As well as being popular with Canadian audiences, Ride the Cyclone, which debuted in Victoria in 2009, has emerged as a critics' darling. It won the Dora Mavor Moore Award for best touring production and multiple honours at the Toronto Theatre Critics Awards (best new musical/ best direction/best supporting actor in a musical).
Richmond and director Britt Small, interviewed this week at UVic's Phoenix Theatre, said they'd hoped McCollum would give Ride the Cyclone an unequivocal thumbs-up one year ago when he saw it at Toronto's Theatre Passe Muraille. At the time, the Broadway producer was encouraging but suggested some changes.
"He basically said he liked the show and everything, but he wanted it more narrative-based," Richmond said.
That earlier version of Ride the Cyclone was less of a traditional musical than a cabaret-style romp.
"[McCollum] said it would probably work well off-Broadway, but to push it into the next realm, you have to think about the narrative. It's not that he disliked it. It was just the genre," Small said.
McCollum said Richmond and Maxwell are artists with "wonderful and different" instincts who have developed a show that "doesn't fit any formula."
He believes the pair have developed a distinctive style working with Atomic Vaudeville, an independent Victoria theatre troupe specializing in irreverent comedy cabaret.
He says the characters in the earlier version of Ride the Cyclone could be better defined in how they exist in relation to one another, rather than functioning solely as individuals.
"I've asked a lot of questions, and they've come up with some wonderful new stuff," McCollum said. "I already think [Ride the Cyclone] is very good; otherwise I wouldn't have spent the last year and a half working with them."
Although the original proscenium arch has been retained, the show has new set pieces built at the University of Victoria. Some musical numbers are revamped, and a new finale song has been added. The band, dressed in rat costumes, is expanded to a quartet. The character of Karnack, a fortune-telling machine, is rewritten so he has more of an active role.
Atomic Vaudeville is self-producing the Victoria run. Theatres in other cities will pay guaranteed fees.
The Western Canadian tour, assisted by a $30,000 Canada Council grant, has a $500,000 budget. Ride the Cyclone will tour with a technical director and a sound engineer - both new additions.
The Drowsy Chaperone started life as a stag-party entertainment and then played the Toronto Fringe Festival before landing on Broadway.
Ride the Cyclone has similarly low-budget roots.
"It is unusual for a small, independent theatre company to have this trajectory," Richmond said. "It's kind of weird and surreal." email@example.com
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