Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Musical of the Month: Floyd Collins

After a break from it, we return now to our popular series, Musical of the Month. We thought we'd start things up with a non-typical choice. Throughout August, we'll examine a short-running though acclaimed and admired off-Broadway show, Floyd Collins. It is also a show I've never seen, but I hope to some day.

Musical of the Month:
Floyd Collins
The Show

The Plot

The musical examines the true life and death of Kentucky spelunker Floyd Collins. In 1925, he became trapped in Sand Cave, and it was a national sensation. As he is trapped, the story tells about his love of cave exploration, the effects on his family, and how the media played a role in making him a legend. Despite the heroics of his brother Homer, and the tenacity of reporter Skeets Miller, they were unable to save Floyd in time before he died.

The Stats
  • Floyd Collins' world premiere in 1994 at the Philadelphia American Musical Theater Festival.
  • The musical opened off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons on February 9, 1996.
  • After running 25 performances, the show closed on March 24, 1996.
  • The show won the 1996 Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical, the 1996 Drama Desk Award for Sound Design (Dan Moses Schreier), and the 1996 Obie Award for Music (Adam Guettel), and was also nominated for a 1996 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical.
  • It made its London debut in 1999.

The Background
  • The show dramatizes the life of Floyd Collins as they relate to the last seventeen days of his life.
  • William Floyd Collins, born July 20, 1887 in Auburn, Kentucky, died February 13, 1925 in Cave City, Kentucky. He was laid to rest at the Mammoth Cave Baptist Church Cemetery.
  • The cave shaft was very small, and he got trapped by a rock that pinned him by the leg. Eventually, rescuers were able to reach him with food and water, while they dug a parallel shaft to try reach him and unpin his leg.

  • Reporter "Skeets" Miller of the Louisville Courier-Journal, a small man, visited Collins in the cave several times over the first 14 days of the ordeal. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his work.
  • The event created one of America's first media sensations, as it was broadcast by radio. Charles Lindbergh was hired to do air photography.
  • The media frenzy drew huge crowds to the site, where people set up food booths and merchandise kiosks to cash in on the tragedy. This was one of the first of such things in the United States.
  • Collins' death has been the subject of books, documentaries, and at least one film. Several country/blue grass artists have written songs about him.
  • The breakout song from the musical, "How Glory Goes," has been recorded by Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Kelli O'Hara.


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