Theater students “Ride the Cyclone” in student-led production


Media: Payton Jobson '23

Students rehearse for the student-run production “Ride the Cyclone”

This year, Hill students presented “Ride the Cyclone” in the Black Box Theatre from April 21-23. Specifically geared towards students, “Ride the Cyclone” is a musical which tells the story of six Canadian teenagers who find themselves in an accident on a roller coaster.

The Hill School’s performance of “Ride the Cyclone” is currently entered into the Greater Philadelphia Critics and Awards Program for High School Students, better known as the Cappies.

The Cappies is an international program which recognizes and celebrates journalism and theater students, as well as teenage playwrights for their outstanding performance.

When selecting a musical for this year’s student-led production, Tofe Akinyanmi ’23, “Ride the Cyclone’s” program director, thought back to her previous experiences. Akinyanmi was a stage director last year, but she felt that the production wasn’t appropriate for school. She felt that “Ride the Cyclone” was the perfect musical for the 2023 student-led production because not only was it an appropriate musical for a school setting, but the cast and staff alike, were thrilled upon learning that “Ride the Cyclone” is only a one act play.

For this musical, the following seven students were casted in lead roles: Luke Gerdeman ’23 (Karnak), who serves as The Hill News Arts and Leisure Editor, Devon Smith ’24 (Noel), Carolyn McNay ’23 (Ocean), Emma Herzog ’24 (Constance), Joy Booth-Genthe ’25 (Jane Doe), Sienna Licata ’25 (Ricky), and Frankie Halvey ’24 (Mischa). Halvey also served as the production’s music director. 

Although set design began last May and music rehearsals began in October, this cast was not finalized until November, when it was switched. Auditions were held near the beginning of the school year after auditions for the Ellis Theatre Guild productions.

“I actually sat in on auditions because of my role as music director,” Halvey commented. “It was difficult choosing people for roles, as we have so many talented students at this school. It took us two weeks to decide on a cast, because of all the amazing auditions we received.”

After some students were no longer able to perform, others were asked to fill their roles, one of which was Licata.

“In the beginning of the year, I wasn’t sure what my schedule would look like or if I’d have time to do a student led musical, since it wouldn’t be my afternoon activity. Therefore, I didn’t audition, Licata explained. “I got into the musical by special circumstances. However, when I was asked, I was very happy to fill the role. I love doing theater and performance, and I have fun every moment I’m doing it.”

Even though they were faced with the task of balancing schoolwork, afternoon activities, and “Ride the Cyclone rehearsals, the cast members and staff find joy in it all.

“My schoolwork has picked up this term, and I definitely have more of it on my plate,” Booth-Genthe mentioned. “I don’t get a day off to rest because rehearsals take place on Saturdays and Sundays, but they are a great use of my time. While rehearsals are long on the weekends, some over six hours, I find them enjoyable because I am surrounded by great people and hard workers.”

With four shows, April 21 at 7:30pm, April 22 at 2:00pm and 7:30pm, and April 23 at 7:30pm, everyone involved in “Ride the Cyclone” is diligently preparing for what they hope will be an amazing production.

“I’m really excited to see it all come together. We have all put a lot of work into this and it would be nice to see it pay off, Akinyanmi said prior to the performances.