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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Theatre review: Floyd Collins is a handsome production

There is so much passion and professionalism in every Patrick Street Production.  Husband and wife team and Co-Artistic Producers Peter Jorgensen and Katey Wright pull out all the stops to deliver polished, powerful musical theatre. Floyd Collins is no exception.

Adam Guettel and Tina Landau’s Floyd Collins is an odd choice for a musical adaptation as it concerns the true story of a man in 1925 Kentucky who gets trapped underground. The resulting media circus, as people try to rescue him and then try to capitalize on the tragedy, reveals the ugly side of human nature.

The cast is spectacular, accomplished singers and actors. Daren Herbert plays the title role and captures the hopeful explorer so that his predicament never becomes tedious, spending much of the play lying on his back trapped under a rock. Kevin McNulty and Katey Wright play the parents with a wonderful combination of naiveté and gumption. Andrew Wade does compassionate work as “Skeets” Miller the happy reporter who breaks the story and later becomes one of the few people who can get into the small opening where Floyd is trapped.

Krystin Pellerin and Michael Torontow play Floyd’s sister and brother. Both have rich full voices and give dynamic honest performances. One of the best scenes in the show is when the brothers talk underground and as they bicker, tease and tell riddles in a sweetly funny exchange, it is simultaneously heartbreaking.

Amir Ofek has created a sloping stylized set that is simple and grand at the same time. The moody lighting by Jeff Harrison and period costumes by Barbara Clayden are perfect.

The six-piece band under Jonathans Munro’s direction sounds great and there are some terrific songs – the Andrew Sisters-esque “Is That Remarkable?”, the brothers singing “Daybreak” in a fantasy sequence with its nonsensical echos was joyous and another fantasy sequence as the sister sings “Through The Mountain” is poetic and moving.

The script itself is repetitive, with the three fantasy sequences following the same structure where the fantasy is joyous and happy and then the action returns to Floyd being trapped in the cave.  The callousness of the industrialist and the reporters who will change or misquote facts in order to get a good story are hardly innovative.

The ending is a little predictable even if you are unaware of the story’s true-life outcome with two possible conclusions: they rescue Floyd or he dies in the cave. It is obvious where the musical is headed early on, but there were still many in the audience dabbing away tears at the end.

Floyd Collins is spectacularly acted and beautifully sung with verve and sets a high production standard that is something to celebrate.

Book by Tina Landau with music and lyrics by Adam Guettel. Directed by Peter Jorgensen. A Patrick Street Productions and Talk Is Free Theatre co-production.  On stage at the York Theatre through March 30, 2014.

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