Ride the Cyclone | Department of Theatre and Dance | Songs | Movies | Film | Tickets


In a cinema landscape dominated by superhero blockbusters, raunchy comedies, and remake after remake, a little Canadian indie musical managed to break through and captivate critics and audiences alike. “Ride the Cyclone” charmed tastemakers with its blend of catchy tunes, macabre humour, and deeply human storytelling, all wrapped in an unconventional narrative following a freak roller coaster accident. The 2016 film directed by Jacob Tierney has developed a fervent cult following and rewritten rules about what a musical can look like on screen.

Read More: Alexei Navalny

Ride Cyclone
Ride Cyclone

Ride the Cyclone Yet Irresistible Premise

The plot of “Ride the Cyclone” reads like a twisted acid trip best suited for an experimental arthouse flick, not a crowd-pleasing musical. It centres on the members of the St. Cassian High School chamber choir who perish in a freak roller-coaster accident while on their way to a competition. However, a jaw-dropping twist reveals the dead choir members have been granted one last chance to plead their case directly to the universe itself in order to be brought back to life.

Each student tells their life story through song and dance numbers styled after various musical theatre traditions. Contexts shift between Greek tragedy to Spaghetti Western to Bollywood spectacle. Their emotional arcs both intersect and contradict while exploring mortality, teenage insecurities, dark pasts, and everything in between. It’s bizarre yet deeply human and compelling.

Part of the delightful absurdity stems from how “Ride the Cyclone” originated. The musical started life as a half-baked concept by two Canadian poets who crafted it as an avant-garde cabaret act first produced at the 2008 Toronto Fringe Festival. Over the next six years, writers Jacob Tierney and Jacob Richmond, along with composer Brooke Maxwell, kept reworking the piece across theatre productions in locales like Chicago, Edmonton, and Regina. By the time they adapted “Ride the Cyclone” into a film, the core idea and many songs were preserved while the framing device transformed into a macabre fantasy laced with surrealism and pitch-black comedy.

Low Budget Yet Huge Imagination and Heart

Given the film’s oddball nature, it’s no surprise that “Ride the Cyclone” operated on an ultra-low budget against the odds. Beyond a cult following developed from various stage productions, the movie received little financing from traditional sources. Producers secured a scant $1 million budget and initially struggled to attract a notable cast.

However, director Jacob Tierney managed to attract a promising young ensemble of talented performers who saw the material’s immense potential. Up-and-comers like Hayride Opera’s Aleksandra Stojanovic Gilbrook took on lead roles. Meanwhile, veterans like Rust Valley Restorer’s Mike Dopud and The Expanse’s Cara Gee rounded out the cast. The crew embraced a scrappy indie production, shooting most scenes across Manitoba locations with local crews.

Despite the minuscule finances, composer Brooke Maxwell’s score remains hugely ambitious, synthesizing everything from country rock to grand Broadway-style production numbers. Choreographer Natalie Arsenault created dynamic dance sequences capitalizing on dream sequences and character perspectives to bring vibrancy and imagination. The movie bursts with untold levels of creativity and heart that belie its low budget.

From Cult Phenomenon to Critical Darling

While the original cabaret iteration had a following around Toronto, few could have anticipated “Ride the Cyclone” would blossom into an acclaimed cult classic beloved by critics upon its 2016 film release. Yet positive reviews rolled in from prestigious tastemakers like The Hollywood Reporter and The Playlist praising the musical’s gonzo premise, rich characterizations, and disarming emotional depth.

The prestigious SXSW Film Festival’s surprising success launched “Ride the Cyclone” on the global stage. It screened at dozens of international festivals from Warsaw to Busan. The movie won numerous awards and slowly but surely developed a fervent fanbase of converts raving about its unforgettable tunes and surreal storytelling. Thanks to its momentum from festivals, theatrical runs, and digital distribution deals, “Ride the Cyclone” has managed to gross over $2 million against its $1 million budget.

Ride the Cyclone Review
Ride the Cyclone Review

Beyond just commercial success, “Ride the Cyclone” attracted acclaim from prestigious groups like the Toronto Film Critics Association and Vancouver Film Critics Circle. It received multiple nominations for the Canadian Screen Award, including Best Motion Picture. The affection for the movie is so ardent that effusive press raves use descriptors like “batsh*t crazy” and “outrageously inventive” to praise how it invigorates the traditional stage musical formula.

Part of the reason “Ride the Cyclone” resonated so widely is that it embraces ideas around nonconformity and acceptance in a very 2023 way. Despite its morbid trappings involving death and ghosts, the musical champions the notion of finding community and overcoming insecurity by celebrating what makes you unique. Characters across the quirky ensemble represent all types of outsiders.

Ride the Cyclone: A Quirky Musical with Bite

Ride the Cyclone is a unique musical that blends dark humour, catchy tunes, and a thought-provoking story.expand_more Created by the duo of Jacob Richmond (music, lyrics, and book) and Brooke Maxwell (music and lyrics), the musical takes audiences on a thrilling ride through the afterlife with a group of unforgettable characters.expand_more

Premiering in 2008 at Atomic Vaudeville in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, Ride the Cyclone has garnered a devoted following for its unconventional take on teen angst and the value of life.expand_more Set in the fictional Uranium City, the story follows six teenagers, all members of their high school chamber choir, who tragically perish in a freak roller coaster accident.expand_more

Facing Mortality with Song and Dance

Instead of fading into oblivion, the teenagers find themselves stuck in a peculiar limbo, presided over by a somewhat creepy fortune-telling machine named Carnies. Exclamation This enigmatic device offers the teens a chance to return to the living world, but with a twist: only one can be resurrected.exclamation The condition? Each teenager must compete in a song-and-storytelling contest, revealing their deepest desires, regrets, and life experiences. exclamation

As the competition unfolds, we delve into the lives of each character. There’s the ambitious and competitive Ocean, the yearning and artistic Misha, the lonely Constance, the brooding goth teen Karnak, the awkward techie Noel, and the seemingly perfect choir president, Penny. Through their poignant and often hilarious songs, we learn about their dreams, their flaws, and the ways in which their lives intersected before the fateful accident.

A Celebration of Life

Ride the Cyclone isn’t just about death; it’s a vibrant celebration of life. As the teens confront their mortality and compete for a second chance, they grapple with issues of self-acceptance, forgiveness, and the importance of human connection. Exclamation: The musical’s upbeat score, infused with pop, rock, and even gospel influences, complements the emotional depth of the story.

Beyond the Stage

The success of Ride the Cyclone has extended beyond its stage productions. A high school edition of the musical has been adapted, allowing younger audiences to connect with the story’s themes.expand_more The musical has also garnered critical acclaim, receiving awards and nominations for its innovative concept, compelling music, and powerful performances.

Ride the Cyclone (Off Broadway
Ride the Cyclone (Off Broadway

Read More: Ride the Cyclone


“Ride the Cyclone” arrived as an under-the-radar indie gem in 2016 before slowly building momentum and rising to must-see status among cinephiles and musical fans alike. While its demented premise involving undead teens competing through song numbers to get resurrected sounds almost confrontationally bizarre, the result is an imaginative crowd-pleaser pulsing with heart, humanity, and endless inventiveness.


Q: What is the film “Ride the Cyclone” about?

A: The offbeat Canadian musical film centers on a group of teens who die in a freak roller coaster accident and then get one last chance to plead their case through songs and stories to be brought back to life. It blends dark comedy, surreal visuals, and emotional human drama.

Q: Where did the story for “Ride the Cyclone” originate?

A: It began as an avant-garde cabaret act by writers Jacob Tierney and Jacob Richmond that played at theatres across Canada from 2008-2014 before being adapted into a film.

Q: What tone or genre does “Ride the Cyclone” have?

A: It’s a unique blend of several genres – part musical, part dark comedy, part fantasy drama exploring mortality and the human condition through a surreal lens and with catchy pop/rock/Broadway tunes.

Q: Who stars in the cast of “Ride the Cyclone”?

A: The ensemble cast features talented young performers like Hayride Opera’s Aleksandra Stojanovic Gilbrook, as well as veterans like Mike Dopud and Cara Gee.

Q: Was “Ride the Cyclone” a big commercial hit?

A: No, the low-budget indie film had a limited theatrical release but became a critical smash and award-winning cult favourite after finding an audience over time through festivals, streaming, and positive word-of-mouth.

What is the Uranium Teen Scream Trilogy?

Ride the Cyclone is the second installment in Jacob Richmond’s planned trilogy of theatrical works.expand_more The other two parts have yet to be written.

Is there a cast recording available?

Yes, a cast recording of the original Off-Broadway production was released in 2016.exclamation

Can I watch Ride the Cyclone online?

Unfortunately, there is no official online version of Ride the Cyclone available at this time. exclamation, However, you can find clips and fan recordings on platforms like YouTube.expand_more

Is Ride the Cyclone appropriate for all ages?

While the musical deals with death, it does so very and humorously.


expand_more However, it may contain mature themes that are not suitable for young children.expand_more It’s recommended that you check with your local production for age restrictions.

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