It was back in 2008 when a small musical written by Jacob Richmond and Brooke Maxwell found big reception in British Columbia, with “Ride the Cyclone” quickly becoming a favorite among younger theatergoers and developing a cult following.
The fanfare continued to build. In the ensuing years, the show had its U.S. premiere at Chicago Shakespeare Theater in 2015, followed by a hit Off-Broadway production the following year. More recently, it played Princeton University’s McCarter Theatre Center, where it was met with critical and audience acclaim last spring.
In partnership with McCarter Theatre Center, Arena Stage will present the show at the Kreeger Theater, January 13 through February 19.
The musical follows six teen choir singers whose lives are cut short in a freak roller coaster accident. Stuck in the afterlife, a mechanical fortuneteller gives them a chance to sing their way back to earth.
Maddox, who starred last fall as a Factory Girl in New York City Center’s “Parade,” is thrilled to be back with “Ride the Cyclone.” A Texas native, the actress auditioned for the part through Zoom and remembers fondly her first thoughts on the show.
“I had given the cast album a listen and was so confused — you have everything from hip-hop to what my character sings, which is a New Orleans swing ballad, and I thought it was just such a quirky show,” she says. “I hadn’t read or seen anything like this and was so excited to be able to do it. These characters are people you know. I think that’s especially why the younger audiences really cling to our show.”
Plus, “Ride the Cyclone” is funny, heartstrings get pulled and the music is catchy and memorable, she notes.
“Some of the best nights at McCarter were when we had a lot of young people in the house, or we did it in front of schools, which Arena does several of those as well,” Maddox says. “All of a sudden, we are the funniest people ever. They laugh at every line and go crazy. And there are people who will come and watch just one character one night and come the next night to watch another character. It’s very lively.”
Even though she did the show less than a year ago, the Arena Stage version will have some differences from the show that went up in New Jersey.
“There’s a ton of updates and so many things have been upgraded for the Arena production,” Maddox says. “One of the writers, Jacob Richmond, is with us in the room, so there’s even script changes being made. It’s the same set and idea, but Sarah has added some tweaks and changes.”
Also returning from the McCarter production are Nick Martinez, Eli Mayer and Matthew Boyd Snyder. The cast also includes Gabrielle Dominique, Marc Geller, Shinah Hey, Ashley D. Nguyen and Wood Van Meter.
“This show really has something for everybody and you’d be surprised how much spectacle is packed into this little cast,” Maddox says. “Come for the laughs, but you will leave with more than that.”