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Ride continues with showcase of Cyclone songs

What: The Cyclone Song Cycle Where: Roxy Theatre When: Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8 p.m. Also Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets: $25 at 250-590-6291 or ticketrocket.
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Rdie the Cyclone composer Brooke Maxwell, left, with playwright Jacob Richmond.

What: The Cyclone Song Cycle

Where: Roxy Theatre

When: Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8 p.m. Also Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Tickets: $25 at 250-590-6291 or ticketrocket.org

The latest version of the Victoria-made hit Ride the Cyclone will debut this fall in Chicago.

Meanwhile, Atomic Vaudeville has hatched something to tide over fans of this comedy musical about teens who die in a freak roller-coaster accident.

The Cyclone Song Cycle is a 75-minute show showcasing only the songs from Ride the Cyclone. The revue, a fundraiser for Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre, will be performed at the Roxy Theatre. Original cast members such as Rielle Braid, Elliott Loran, Kelly Hudson, Sarah Jane Pelzer, Alex Wasenko and Kholby Wardell will sing such favourites as Space Age Bachelor Man and F---ed Up Girl.

As a bonus, early “lost songs” from Ride the Cyclone will be performed. Most of these, including a tune called Small Things Become Big Things, vanished when two characters were dropped from the first version of the show.

The Dora-award-winning musical has undergone at least six rewrites since it was originally produced by Victoria’s Atomic Vaudeville. The creators — composer Brooke Maxwell and playwright Jacob Richmond — say the latest Chicago version of Ride the Cyclone will open either in September or October.

There’s some secrecy surrounding the project. Maxwell and Richmond have been instructed not to say which company is producing. They did say Kevin McCollum, one of Broadway’s top producers (The Drowsy Chaperone, Rent, Avenue Q), is still collaborating with them.

Can one assume the Chicago run is a pre-Broadway tryout?

“We don’t really know. I’m assuming that’s kind of what they’re thinking,” Richmond said.

“I think that’s the intention,” agreed Maxwell.

The pair said they spent an “intense” three weeks in Chicago last August rewriting and workshopping the first 20 minutes of the show. Overall, it has been a long and winding road. Maxwell has files from Ride the Cyclone dating back to 2009; Richmond figures it was created in 2008.

“With this one, we’re been working on it so long, it’s becoming surreal,” Richmond said. “You kind of go, ‘I cannot believe we’re working on this again.’ ”

There were several runs at Victoria’s Metro Studio, as well as productions at the University of Victoria and the Belfry Theatre. It has played Vancouver, Whitehorse and Toronto, where it was co-produced by Theatre Passe Muraille and Acting Up Stage Company.

Toronto critics raved about Ride the Cyclone, which dishes up absurdist hilarity fuelled by songs ranging from rap, gospel and Brechtian cabaret to Ziggy-Stardust glam rock and Broadway-style show tunes. “Probably the most uproarious and outrageous piece of musical theatre Canada has ever produced,” declared one national newspaper.

Richmond and Maxwell say they knew little about creating musicals before Ride the Cyclone — which is their first one. Richmond had previously enjoyed success with the plays Legoland and The Qualities of Zero. Maxwell was a singer/pianist/saxophone who had studied jazz. “We weren’t musical-theatre dudes,” Richmond said. “We kind of went into it blind.”

Working with musical-theatre professionals in Chicago, the duo learned about things such as ending a song sharply and obviously (as opposed to a fade-out) and providing “emotional content” that’s conveyed clearly to audiences.

Now Richard and Maxwell are writing a new musical for the Belfry Theatre. Titled Island of Hope, it’s inspired by the true story of Leonardo the Musical: A Portrait of Love. Considered one of the most disastrous efforts in London musical history, it closed in 1993 after a short run on the West End.

The tale is replete with the sort of absurdist elements that appeal to Richmond. The musical’s mastermind was Duke Minks, the former manager of an obscure 1960s pop group. He persuaded the citizens of the Republic of Nauru — a tiny island off Australia — to bankroll the musical (the islanders had become wealthy by mining Nauru’s phosphate deposits).

Because British critics believed the phosphate deposits were the legacy of sea birds, they had fun lambasting Leonardo the Musical. “They couldn’t help writing ‘full of crap’ or ‘this is the thing that s--t will bring you,’ ” Richmond said. “Mind you, I hear the musical was 4 1Ú2 hours long. And it was a rock opera about Leonardo da Vinci. Which doesn’t make any sense.”

achamberlain@timescolonist.com