The carnival deaths of six teenagers -- and their subsequent efforts to be the one chosen to come back to life -- hits Southern Illinois University Carbondale's McLeod Theater stage Oct. 12 to 15 as the School of Theater and Dance opens its 2023-2024 season with the dark comic musical "Ride the Cyclone."
The season presents "opportunities for people to see shows that are not often produced," said H.D. Motyl, director in the School of Theater and Dance. "All four of these shows are performances that have not played in this area ever, or for a very long time. It's fun for us to give audiences something that is fresh."
The season's other productions are:
• Nov. 30 to Dec. 3 and Dec. 7-10 -- "Wedding Band," directed by guest artist Omeyemi Green, with scenic design by guest artist Tim Jones.
• Feb. 29 to March 3 -- "She Loves Me," directed by Angela Shultz, assistant professor of voice, School of Music.
• May 2 to 5 -- "Criminal Genius," directed by Susan Patrick Steinfeldt, associate professor, School of Theater and Dance.
Morbidly funny with a variety of music
"Ride the Cyclone" is co-produced with the School of Music. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 12-14, and 2 p.m. Oct. 15. The musical revolves around the tale of a freak roller coaster accident and a mechanical fortune-telling machine that invites the dead teens to win a chance at living by telling a story. The catch? Only one will receive the prize. Each of the teens pitches why they should be able to go back and live their life.
Angela C. Shultz, an assistant professor of voice in the School of Music, is the musical director and notes that the rehearsals -- which have been going on for about three weeks -- "have been incredibly high energy." The show is one that the students have been very excited about doing, she said.
"Audiences should come along for the 'ride,'" Shultz said, adding no pun intended. "The show is darkly comic and hopeful at the same time. Musically, you'll hear everything from rap to disco to Ukrainian folk to Britney Spears-like pop and some classical singing along the way. If you want to know what current off-Broadway musical theater is like, this show is such a great example. It's experimental, funny, heartfelt and exciting."
David Goldstein, an acclaimed set and lighting designer from Brooklyn, is overseeing scenic design. Lenny Lively, a third-year graduate student in SIU's technical direction MFA program, is the production's technical director. This production of "Ride the Cyclone" is Lively's thesis.
Lively said Goldstein has designed "some amazing sets" in New York City that Lively is familiar with, and that Goldstein's scenic design is "unique and innovative."
"Working with that caliber of a scenic designer on my graduate thesis at SIU Carbondale was an intensely valuable experience," he said. "This scenic design challenged me to experiment with materials that I haven't used previously and to combine traditional materials in novel ways."
The audience is invited to a talkback with Clark, the show's director, and cast and crew immediately after the Oct. 12 opening night performance.
All of the performances except will be in McLeod Theater, located in the Communications Building, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and matinees at 2 p.m. Sunday. Individual tickets are $20, $18 and $8, respectively, and those tickets are available at the door, online or by calling the Banterra Center Box Office, at theateranddance.siu.edu or 618-453-6000.