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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

In July 1904, the second Tour de France bicycle race was held. It was plagued by cheating and scandal. Participants broke rules on many stages, everything from catching illegal rides by car and/or train, to finding unauthorized nourishment along the route, to nails thrown out on the course to cause flat tires. Some of the riders’ conduct was so bad that the race’s organizer stated that it would be the last time the race was run. In the end the top finishers were disqualified and the youngest rider in the contest, Henri Cornet, was declared the winner.

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From left: Carrie Bennett Fedor, Evan Wallace, John Kern, Frankie Bolda, Sonia Goldberg, Paige Scott, Craig Kemp, Ben Asaykwee and Joshua C. Ramsey make up the cast for Zach Rosing’s production of “The Great BIke Race” at TOTS

Playwright/director Zack Neiditch has taken this amazing sports story from the distant past and turned it into the lively and original production, The Great Bike Race – which is produced by Zach Rosing and currently on the bill at Theatre on the Square. The show first appeared at the 2014 Indy Fringe Fest and has been elongated somewhat for this run.

The story is told as a series of episodic vignettes and the fit cast of 9 actors and actresses zooms through the race’s action with aplomb. The over-the-top activity is stuffed with comic turns, silly songs, a motion picture background, a virtual cow, love story sidebars, looney characterizations, a popular 1904 radio program and lots of high powered racing action.

The comedy is uneven at best, ranging from cheap fart jokes and profanity to really inspired situational humor. The songs are actually quite good (original music is by Paige Scott) and they move the story along nicely, plus they are offered by some very talented voices. The background is ingenious and very much a part of the storytelling. The cow speaks for itself. The love stories tend to be uno-gendered and a bit forced. The looney characterizations are a delight and are fully rendered. The radio show is a nice twist of contemporary insanity (cleverly anachronistic was their pitch) which adds to the mayhem. The high powered cycle racing looks exhausting – but this cast is, as I said, fit. And I must make special mention of Peachy Keen Costuming as their added touch is a vital one.

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From left: Paige Scott, Frankie Bolda and Ben Asaykwee in a scene from Zach Rosing’s production of “The Great Bike Race” at TOTS

I do applaud the production team on their penchant for taking chances. Some concepts fall by the way-side, but a good many of the ideas land truly and provide a worthwhile entertainment. The team of actors functions well as an amazing ensemble, but standout performances by Frankie Bolda as winning rider Henri Cornet, Ben Asaykwee as a likeably villainous Maurice Garin, and Paige Scott (whose mustachioed image in the publicity ads and posters for the production has become nothing short of iconic) as the dastardly Hippolyte Acoutrier, lead the way. Additionally, Josh Ramsey does an impressive job – his hands full with a trio of very varied rider depictions.

Bottomline: this was a perfect Father’s Day afternoon entertainment – full of laughs, a few groans, and much quirky and imaginative story-telling. I enjoyed it!

The Great Bicycle Race continues at Theatre on the Square for two more performances, June 23 & 24, 2017 at 8:00 PM. For tickets and information, go online to https://zrpevents.vbotickets.com/events

  • – Photos provided by Zach Rosing Productions
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