note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Beverly Creasey
Seventy-six years ago this month, newspapers around the country carried headlines about a young man trapped deep below the earth's surface in an underground cave. The Boston GLOBE ran a story every day for two weeks about that Kentucky caver. And now it's a musical.
SpeakEasy Stage has quite a reputation for breathing new life into small musicals which didn't quite make it to Broadway --- musicals like "A New Brain", which fit perfectly into SpeakEasy's tiny BCA space. Last year it was their acclaimed production of "Violet"; this year it's "Floyd Collins".
Adam Guettel's gorgeous ballad [of Floyd Collins] opens the show, simply and elegantly sung by Matt Deming. Guettel has written some inventive music --- like Floyd's duet with his own echo --- and the smart, cheeky boogie woogie for the ravenous reporters who flock to the tragedy.
As with "Sweeney Todd", we know at the start of the show that the hero does, but Tina Landau's book doesn't capture the spark or suspense of that show. Once Floyd goes down he's down, and the focus stays on him in his little cramped space in Eric Levenson's ingeniously complicated wooden cave set. Even though the rest of the cast is swirling above him, Floyd is immobile except for a memory scene, and that's counter-dramatic.
What SpeakEasy has going for it are its talented singers. Director Paul Daigneault's energetic cast is first rate. Michael Mendiola is a sweet, sympathetic Floyd, Bridget Beirne is Floyd's emotional sister, and Jose Delgado is his determined brother. Much of the conflict in the musical is over who should attempt a rescue. Brad Evans has the plum role of the one man narrow enough to reach Floyd. Kirsten McKinney's lively choreography for the reporters is invigorated by John M. Dias' amusing swagger. Kudos to SpeakEasy for exploring rarely performed musicals so the rest of us can have a chance to see them.