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Whitehorse welcomes killer vaudeville

Karnack knows the six teenagers are going to die. But the fortune-telling machine can't tell them, because he's set on "family-fun" mode. So begins Ride the Cyclone, an anti-musical at the Yukon Arts Centre this week.

Karnack knows the six teenagers are going to die.

But the fortune-telling machine can’t tell them, because he’s set on “family-fun” mode.

So begins Ride the Cyclone, an anti-musical at the Yukon Arts Centre this week.

Six teenage choir members, after getting their fortunes told, clamber onto the Cyclone, a rickety old roller coaster in Uranium, Saskatchewan.

Karnack couldn’t warn them, and when the roller coaster gets to the top of the loop-de-loop it derails.

“When more than one person dies in an accident, people tend to group them together,” said co-director Britt Small.

The choir members become the St. Cassian Six, named after their school.

“The play is a way to individualize them again and give them their individual voice,” said Small.

Ride the Cyclone follows the trajectory of a roller coaster, she said.

“It takes you up, then down, then up again.”

It all hinges on Karnack, a fortune-telling machine with a conscience.

“He’s feeling guilty they all died, because he knew about it beforehand and couldn’t tell them,” said Small.

So Karnack grants each of the dead teens a chance to sing one last song.

“He gives each of them a last chance to express themselves posthumously,” she said.

It’s not really a musical, said Small.

“It’s more of a play with music, or a concert with a script.”

And unlike traditional musicals, with characters spontaneously bursting into song, Ride the Cyclone is addressed to the audience.

“There’s no fourth wall,” said Small.

Writer Jacob Richmond and Small aren’t fans of traditional theatre, “where you sit around a table and talk about your family,” she said.

That’s why they opted for the song and dance of vaudeville, using Karnack as the narrator, who starts off addressing the audience.

The music the choir members choose to sing is all over the map, ranging from rap and torchy jazz to ‘50s rock and roll and ‘70s rock.

“The songs aren’t as hammy and cheesy as traditional musicals,” said actor Matthew Coulson.

“They’re more satirical.”

For a lot of people musicals carry a stigma, he said.

“They see Glee on TV and think that’s what it’s going to be.”

But Ride the Cyclone is a far cry from Glee.

“Don’t come on closing night,” added actor Kelly Hudson.

“Because you’re going to want to see it twice.”

Most people do, she said.

One teen fan has been to the show six times.

“The first time people see it they think it’s hilarious,” said Hudson. “The second time, they think it’s tragic.”

It’s both, she added.

Ride the Cyclone used to be two-and-a-half hours long, with an intermission.

But roller coasters don’t have intermissions, said Small.

The Victoria-based theatre company had to cut it down for Toronto’s SummerWorks Theatre Festival.

Now, it’s a 90-minute non-stop ride.

The cast and director flew to Whitehorse this week, but driver Saul Andersen had to get the set north.

“It’s a big set,” said Small.

It was a four-day trip with some pretty icy travelling.

“But Liard Hot Springs was amazing,” said Andersen.

After Whitehorse, Ride the Cyclone is headed to Toronto for a three-week run.

Andersen is driving there too.

“I’m not looking forward to leaving,” he said, standing in the Westmark Whitehorse on Tuesday morning.

“But then, I hear no one ever is,” he said with a grin.

Ride the Cyclone is running Wednesday through Friday at the Yukon Arts Centre.

Shows start at 8 p.m.

Small and Hudson also have a comedy-pop side project, a band called Slut Revolver.

On Saturday night, this duo is going to sing a song with Hank and Lily called, Halloween’s For Sluts.

Contact Genesee Keevil at