Floyd Collins (musical)

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Floyd Collins
Cover art of the original cast album
MusicAdam Guettel
LyricsAdam Guettel
BookTina Landau
BasisThe life and death of Floyd Collins
Productions1994 Philadelphia
1996 Off-Broadway
1999 London
1999 Chicago
1999 London
1999 St. Louis
AwardsObie Award for Best Music

Floyd Collins is a musical with music and lyrics by Adam Guettel, and book by Tina Landau. The story is based on the death of Floyd Collins near Cave City, Kentucky in the winter of 1925. The musical opened Off-Broadway on February 9, 1996, where it ran for 25 performances. There have been subsequent London productions as well as regional U.S. productions.


Floyd Collins premiered at the American Music Theater Festival, in Philadelphia, in 1994.[1]

The show opened Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons, New York City, on February 9, 1996 and closed on March 24, 1996 after 25 performances. Directed by Landau, the cast included Christopher Innvar as Floyd Collins, Martin Moran as Skeets Miller, Jason Danieley as Homer Collins, and Theresa McCarthy as Nellie Collins, as well as Cass Morgan, Brian d'Arcy James, Matthew Bennett and Michael Mulheren. The musical won the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical, and the 1995-1996 Obie Award for its score. In 2003, a reunion concert was held at Playwrights Horizons with Romain Frugé as Floyd Collins and most of the original cast.

After a three-stop mini US tour in 1999, including San Diego's Old Globe Theatre, Chicago's Goodman Theatre, and Philadelphia's American Music Theatre Festival, where it had first premiered;[2] the show had its first independent regional production at New Line Theatre in St. Louis, Missouri, in November 1999.

The show made its London and European debut at the Bridewell Theatre in July 1999, with Nigel Richards as Floyd, Anna Francolini as Nellie and Craig Purnell as Homer. The highly acclaimed production was directed by Clive Paget.[3] A London revival was produced at The Vault, Southwark Playhouse in February and March 2012.[4] The production was directed by Derek Bond, with Glenn Carter as Floyd, Robyn North as Nellie, Gareth Chart as Homer and Ryan Sampson as Skeets. The production was produced by Peter Huntley and was long-listed for the Ned Sherrin Award for Best Musical at the Evening Standard Awards[5] and won Best Musical Production at The Offies (Off West End Theatre Awards).[6]

A Chicago revival was produced at BoHo Theatre in June and July 2012.[7] The production was directed by Peter Marston Sullivan, with Jim DeSelm as Floyd, Jon Harrison as Homer, and Sarah Bockel as Nellie. Other regional productions include Actors Theatre of Louisville (2001),[8] Aurora Theatre (2002), Carolina Actors Studio Theatre (2011),[9] and Ophelia Theatre Group (2015).[10]

Plot summary[edit]

As originally written, the character list included Floyd Collins, Homer Collins, Nellie Collins, and Johnnie Gerald; as rewritten the role of Johnnie Gerald was merged with that of Homer Collins. As currently performed, the roles include Bee Doyle, Dr Hazlett, three reporters, a Con Man, Lee Collins, Homer Collins, Floyd Collins, Clif Rony, Jewlle Estes, Nellie Collins, Skeets Miller, Miss Jane, H. T. Carmichael and Ed Bishop.

Floyd Collins, exploring Sand Cave, uses the echoes of his voice to sound out the region, and falls through a tight passageway when his foot became trapped, wedged in position by a small rock. His family and his fellow cavers try to free him; when it becomes clear that his rescue will not be easy, his brother Homer spends the night in the cave with him. William Burke "Skeets" Miller, a small man, is able to squeeze through and visit with Floyd, relaying stories which were printed in the news. Despite efforts by miners, the National Guard and the Red Cross, attempts at rescue fail, and the crowd grows outside the cave as a media circus ensues.

Seventeen days after Floyd had entered the cave, a shaft finally reaches him. He had died three days earlier.

The play's musical style is drawn from bluegrass, Americana, and "more complex musical forms that have their antecedents in the likes of Bartok, Janacek and Stravinsky".[11]



Despite having a run of only 25 performances, the show left a strong impression on contemporary theatre. John Simon, writing for New York Magazine, proclaimed that Floyd Collins was "the original and daring musical of our day." He also wrote that "Floyd Collins reestablishes America's sovereignty in a genre it created, but has since lost hold of: it is the modern musical's true and exhilarating ace in the hole."[12] Reviewing a 2016 production, Terry Teachout, writing for the Wall Street Journal, called it "the finest work of American musical theater, not excluding opera, to come along since Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd".[13]

Ben Brantley, in his review for The New York Times, wrote, "Mr. Guettel establishes himself as a young composer of strength and sophistication."[14]


The original cast recording was released by Nonesuch Records on March 18, 1997.[15]

The following songs are not included on the recording:

  • "And She'd Have Blue Eyes"
  • "The Ballad of Floyd Collins (reprise) (act 1)"
  • "Where a Man Belongs"

The finale song is the title track of Audra McDonald's 2000 album How Glory Goes and was also included on Brian Stokes Mitchell's 2006 self-titled album and Kelli O'Hara's 2011 album Always.


  1. ^ Pareles, Jon (April 18, 1994). "Review/Theater; Dreamers and Exploiters in a Slice of Americana". The New York Times. p. C-11. Retrieved March 15, 2022.
  2. ^ Ehren, Christine (March 10, 1999). "Floyd Collins, the Guettel-Landau Musical, Has Resurfaced for a National Tour". Playbill. Retrieved March 15, 2022.
  3. ^ Jennett, Mark. "Floyd Collins". CultureVulture.
  4. ^ "Carter and North star in Floyd Collins revival". Official London Theatre. December 29, 2011. Retrieved March 15, 2022.
  5. ^ "London Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2012 - Longlist revealed". London Evening Standard. November 1, 2012.
  6. ^ Merrifield, Nicola (February 24, 2013). "Eileen Atkins named best actress at 2013 Offies". The Stage. Archived from the original on May 4, 2014.
  7. ^ Teachout, Terry (June 21, 2012). "The First Great Post-Sondheim Musical". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on March 15, 2016. Retrieved June 23, 2012.
  8. ^ Whaley, Charles. "Floyd Collins, a CurtainUp review". CurtainUp.com.
  9. ^ Toppman, Lawrence (April 16, 2012). "Musical 'Floyd Collins' a hole new ballgame". Charlotte Observer. Archived from the original on July 30, 2012.
  10. ^ "The Ophelia Theatre Group". www.opheliatheatre.com. Archived from the original on January 18, 2008.
  11. ^ Spencer, David. "Floyd Collins". Aisle Say. Retrieved February 20, 2009.
  12. ^ Original review republished in John Simon on Theater: Criticism, 1974-2003, 641-43 (2005)
  13. ^ Teachout, Terry (June 9, 2016). "'Floyd Collins' Review: A Cave Man's Fate". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved April 23, 2022.
  14. ^ Brantley, Ben (March 4, 1996). "THEATER REVIEW; Carnival Above Ground, Tragedy Below". The New York Times. p. C-14. Retrieved March 15, 2022.
  15. ^ "Floyd Collins 1996 Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording". amazon.com. Retrieved February 20, 2009.

External links[edit]