book and additional lyrics by Tina Landau music and lyrics by Adam Guettel.

Southwark Playhouse (The Vault) Shipwright Yard corner of Tooley St and Bermondsey St SE1 2TF To 31 March 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 3 March.

Energy and pace keep things on the move.
It’s a musical but Floyd Collins’ isn’t a story to make a song and dance about. Its title character spends most of the time down a pot-hole with his foot trapped. Before a rockslide seals him in. There’s an attempt to sink a rescue shaft. That’s it.

Except, while he lies below ground, on the surface mid-1920s America is hitting full-swing. Enter reporters, Variety agents, film-crews, a sponsor for the rescue operation.

Floyd was part of this world too. Tina Landau and Adam Guettel’s 1996 musical opens with him exploring, the all-American adventurer whose territory happens to be underground And about to become the all-American businessman opening the place to cavers. Guettel gives him a wordless, vocalised call of excitement that’s a non-military echo of Achilles’ war-cry in Michael Tippett’s King Priam.

By the end his sudden freedom and the repeat of this call offers illusory triumph similar to (and perhaps influencing) The Descent, without that film’s eerier element.

Not much happens in act one, once people up above are alerted to the emergency below. It’s with the widening of attention after the interval the musical makes most impact. Not that Guettel can be accused of descending to anything like a memorable tune, or Landau to anything so contrived as a love-interest, though Robyn North’s pale, ethereal Nellie at least gets the score into the treble stave.

Strongest element is Ryan Sampson’s diminutive paperman ‘Skeets’ Miller, the all-American little hero. Without the other reporters’ brashness, he’s come from routine reporting in Louisville. Small enough to navigate the underground passages, his genuine concern makes for the show’s most developed relationship. Other arrivals have an interest in Floyd’s escape – Miller actually wants it.

Though Floyd Collins isn’t likely to do for Kentucky what Rodgers and Hammerstein did for Oklahoma, there’s plenty of energy and fine detail in the instrumental scoring – violin pizzicato or sustained bowed notes, guitar patterns and harmonica swoops, played assiduously by the band whose visible presence seems natural in Derek Bond’s energetic production, among the industrial spaces designer James Peake emphasises in Southwark Playhouse’s own underground (or under-rail) Vault.

Dr Hazlett/Reporter: Vlach Ashton.
Ed Bishop: Mensah Bediako.
H T Carmichael: Kit Benjamin.
Floyd Collins: Glenn Carter.
Homer Collins: Gareth Chart.
Lee Collins: Morgan Deare.
Cliff Roney/Reporter: Dayle Hodge.
Nellie Collins: Robyn North.
Reporter: Roddy Peters.
Jewell Estes: Donovan Preston.
Bee Doyle: Jonathan Redfern.
‘Skeets’ Miller: Ryan Sampson.
Miss Jane: Jane Webster.

Director: Derek Bond.
Designer: James Perkins.
Lighting: Sally Ferguson.
Sound: Robert Donnelly-Jackson.
Musical Director: Tim Jackson.
Choreographer/Musical Staging: Richard Jones.
Dance Captain: Dayle Hodge.
Associate director: Simon Pittman.

2012-03-05 05:18:33

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