As I've stated, this blog isn't just for reviews of the latest cast albums... I'm also going to be reaching back into the realm of the old and/or obscure. And thus, I bring you Floyd Collins. Floyd Collins, based on the true story of a Kentucky caver who became trapped in a sand cave for weeks and was turned into a media sensation, is one of those "how the hell could that possibly work as a musical?" musicals. But composer/lyricist Adam Guettel and librettist Tina Landau found a way. In fact, they created one of the single greatest contemporary musicals of the past 20 years.
This cast album, gratefully immortalizing a show that only ran for 30 Off-Broadway performances back in 1996, can be called a lot of things: astonishing, intoxicating, captivating, and moving for starters. But it's difficult to pin down as just one thing. The incredible and complex score by Guettel is a mixture of country, jazz, bluegrass, Americana, and classical. It's not something the average musical theatre fan will pick up and likely fall in love with in the first listen. This is deep, complex material and music... so much so, that I STILL find new things within it to this day, after listening to it faithfully for 9 whole years. With Floyd Collins, Guettel proves himself to be perhaps the next Sondheim. Each song is wrought with emotion and orchestral intricacy that begs the most attentive of ears and hearts.
The performances are revelatory, to say the least. Want to hear a young Jason Danieley at work? He plays Homer, and is in more than fine vocal form, hitting the highest notes with such ease and clarity that it's almost unbelievable. Theresa McCarthy, a frequent interpreter of Guettel's music, plays Nelly with a voice that somehow simultaneously warms and breaks your heart. As the focal point of the story, Christopher Innvar's Floyd will go down in history as one of the most compellingly acted and sung performances in musical theatre. He sings the show's finale, How Glory Goes, with such moving and passionate conviction that it will bring any listener to tears, even after repeat listens. How Glory Goes may be one of the greatest songs ever written for a musical (this may sound like an exaggeration on my part, but I'm deadly serious).
But that's not to say the rest of the score isn't on the same level. The show opens with nearly 12 minutes of solo singing for Floyd as he explores his discovered sand cave, and this opening makes brilliant use of the "echoes" within the cave as Floyd yodels into the cave's depths. His voice echoes back at him, creating a thrillingly gorgeous vocal round. This is just the tip of the iceberg, however, when it comes to Guettel's brilliant compositions. His songs like the exuberant Riddle Song, the gorgeous Daybreak, and the heart-stoppingly tragic The Dream are just a few standouts from this well-rounded score that is as close to perfect as any score I've ever heard for the theatre.
For God's sake, check out Adam Guettel's masterful Floyd Collins. Even if you hate it the first time, give it another chance. The fact that it's still my favourite musical after 9 years is saying something huge.