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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

Stage Right Moves Stage Center with a Stellar Staging
of Floyd Collins at Hugo House

Also see David's reviews of Clara and Les Misérables


Brian Lange
After too long a wait, Seattle finally gets a production of Adam Guettel and Tina Landau's true-life musical Floyd Collins, and it is a doozy. Directed with clarity and an open heart by Lindsey Larson, the tale of a central Kentucky cave explorer whose entrapment became big news in the mid-1920s soars musically under the expert and loving hand of musical director Mark Rabe, and the downbeat nature of the story is lightened somewhat in Guettel and Landau's adaptation.

Collins' entrapment occurs early on, and from there we see the early strenuous efforts of family and friends to rescue him, followed by the predictable media frenzy (yes, they had them back then too) and increasingly self-serving efforts to aid in what became a hopeless cause. There are stretches of the tale where Floyd solitarily tries to keep himself going, mixed in with moments when his would-be rescuers, particularly a lithe young local reporter, keep counsel with him as they try to dig him out. Much of the second act, dwelling on the publicity feeding frenzy, takes place outside the cave, as the victim nearly becomes a forgotten man in the whole circus. Landau's script is spare and evocative, and Guettel's score more a contemporary folk opera, with little concern of building individual numbers, as it weaves a seamless fabric of storytelling.

Lange, a stalwart young character actor and ensemble member in many shows, more than justifies his casting in the title role, his soaring voice, subtle characterization and non-self pitying approach a perfect fit. Jordan Melin is equally impressive as Floyd's earnest brother Homer, who gets caught up in the hype for a while, but honestly strives in Floyd's behalf. Chelsea LeValley is vocally and dramatically remarkable, and Bill Johns and Beth Wallace are moving as Floyd's hapless father and stepmother. Ben Wynant carves out an especially likable characterization as Skeets Miller, the local reporter who too late realizes how his actions have helped turn a local tragedy into a national headline. Mark Abel, Vincent J. Orduna and Taylor Richmond are solid as local townsfolk, and Ryan Demerick an effectively snide and smarmy outsider trying to play hero. A special tip of the hat to the capable comedic song and dance skills of CJ Conrad, Lars Foster-Jorgensen and Josh Ryder, whose effervescent delivery of the act two opener "Is That Remarkable?" is the show's only (and most welcome) moment which gives its regards to Broadway.

Scenic designer Brandon Estrella uses planks, pipes, rocks and other pieces to create a convincingly dank, desolate and claustrophobic environment, in tandem with John Chenault's atmospheric lighting design, while Adrienne Perry's costumes evoke the era successfully. The balance between the singers and Rabe's four instrument band is perfect, and the show is blissfully unmiked.

With Floyd Collins, Stage Right leaps up and really makes a bid for theatregoers' attention. For this audience member it ranks alongside Sound Theater Company's The Wild Party as the best production of 2013.

Floyd Collins runs through November 23, 2013, at the Richard Hugo House, 1634 11th Ave on Seattle's Capitol Hill. For tickets and more information, visit www.seattlestageright.org.


Photo: Galen Wicks



- David Edward Hughes



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