This week, we end our Musical of the Month series on the off-Broadway show Floyd Collins. Specifically, I'll be sharing a few thoughts on the score (music and lyrics) by Adam Guettel.
I'll begin where I probably should end, with an admission: the complexities and richness of the piece is such that one could write a book about it. So to try and even explain a little of it can't possibly do it justice. I'll just suffice it to say that this score is a pinnacle of the new modern musical era, so advanced is its sound. Like all of the new scores (and composers) of this turn of the century, post-Sondheim generation, Collins pushes boundaries, demands much of its audience, and propels the innately American art form, the musical, once again to the forefront of music that deserves - begs - to be studied.
Not unlike his equally wondrous Light in the Piazza, it forces you to pay attention, and in doing so, makes you get lost in the world it creates. Appropriately, Floyd Collins has a hillbilly/bluegrass sound, rich with fiddling, banjo playing and harmonicas. But all of those sounds also come through in an almost symphonic way, too. The result is a tightly woven score that is simultaneously evocative of its rural Kentucky setting and character-specific. The lyrics are drawn from simplistic vocabulary that is so carefully chosen, you get both authenticity and a scholarly vividness all at once.
The company of actors executes the vocal arrangements with such dexterity, you don't notice it until it hits you aren't actually in a cave with Floyd, or waiting anxiously outside with friends, family, and a growing crowd of thrill-seeking strangers.
The entire cast recording is amazing, and I highly recommend you listen to it all the way through. Several times. But in the interest of, well, generating interest, I offer you six of my favorite numbers, in the order they appear in the show:
"The Call" - Floyd Collins (Christopher Innvar)
Listen to this "I want" song for its yearning and its yodeling.
"It Moves" - Floyd Collins (Christopher Innvar)
Close your eyes and you'll see the Great Sand Cave appear in your mind.
"The Riddle" - Homer Collins (Jason Danieley) & Floyd Collins (Christopher Innvar)
The brotherly love and heartbreaking hope is palpable. Danieley is perfection.
You'll laugh at this toe-tapper. Then you'll give some serious thought to journalism and sensationalism versus the truth.
"Carnival" - Floyd Collins (Christopher Innvar) & Company
What is going on in the cave versus outside, and a stunning orchestral interlude.
"The Dream" - Floyd Collins (Christopher Innvar), Homer Collins (Jason Danieley), Nellie Collins (Theresa McCarthy) & Company
I dare you not to cry.