Jane Doe’s past is a mystery.
She lost her head in a roller coaster accident and steals one from a doll as a replacement. Her deep black eyes are surrounded by the sunshine blond curls that frame her face.
“She stole this doll head and doesn’t know who she is and has no recollection of anything,” said Sarah Jane Pelzer, who plays the character in Ride the Cyclone, created by Victoria’s Atomic Vaudeville. “She is a doll-like character and there is a stiffness to it, disconnectedness.”
Jane Doe is reactionary and always lives in the present because her past is blank.
She’s one of six teenagers singing for a chance to live between life and death at the travelling fair. They’ve been given the chance to express themselves after death by Karnack, a mechanized, fortune-telling machine. Karnack feels responsible for the teens’ death because he foresaw it but couldn’t warn them because he was set to family-fun mode.
The teens just wanted to leave the small town they grew up in, Uranium, Sask. But because of the accident they realize it will never happen. The musical opens with the teens coming to that realization.
“It’s a haunting piece right at the beginning,” said Britt Small, co-director and producer of Ride the Cyclone.
She said that while there is humour in the production there is also a respectful and heart-felt story that runs through it.
“It has touched people quite deeply, people who have experienced death in their lives so there is this resonance with audience members,” she said.
Each teen tells their story through song. Pelzer said many people come back to see the production several times. She attributes the repeat attendance to the level of detail in the story.
“Everyone is always living their story,” she said. “There are so many tiny gags and moments going on during the (main) action.”
Nanaimo is the last stop on the musical’s tour. Small said cast members expect to see family in the audience during the performances.
Ride the Cyclone, presented by TheatreOne, runs April 25-29 at Vancouver Island University’s Malaspina Theatre at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee April 27 at 2 p.m.
Tickets are a special rate for the premiere $24 adults/$18 students.
All other performances are $30 adults/$18 students. Tickets are available by calling 250-754-8850, at the Port Theatre box office, located at 125 Front St., or www.port theatre.com.