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Theater review: Perfect-pitch musical from Heartland

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It’s been 14 years since Heartland Theatre Company last mounted a musical.

After the beautifully produced bluegrass/Stephen Sondheim-inspired, “Floyd Collins,” which opened last weekend, one can only hope they don’t wait another 14 years to dip their toes into the waters of musical theater.

“Folks will pay me to see wonders,” croons Floyd Collins as he tries to spelunk his way to fame and fortune. He believes he has special luck and that will ensure that he can find a spectacular cave on a neighbor’s farm in Kentucky. Floyd has faith his discovery will become a major future tourist attraction and make him rich.

Fate plays a cruel joke on Floyd, when instead of finding a “gold mine,” he becomes trapped when falling rubble crushes his legs. Floyd can only lie there, hoping someone will come to save him.

His family and his community scramble to find the best way to save Floyd.

Floyd becomes a news sensation, and in 1925, that meant that his story was syndicated to over 1,200 newspapers. He develops a close relationship with journalist Skeets Miller (compassionately played by Nathan Sudenga), who not only covers the story, but goes down into the cave and desperately tries to save Floyd.

There is a media circus happening above ground. Dave Krostal, in a layered performance as mining engineer H.T. Carmichael, is adamant that a tunnel be made to reach Floyd.

Kevin Alleman gives a powerful performance as Homer, Floyd’s brother who vehemently disagrees with Carmichael.

Homer’s sister, Nellie, wants to descend into the cave and save her brother, but she is forbidden to do so. Vicky Snyder gives an inspired performance as Nellie, as do Joe Penrod and Cristen Monson as Floyd’s father and stepmother.

The rough-hewn wooden mosaic backdrop designed by Curtis C. Trout is in of itself a work of art. The live musical accompaniment was impeccable, led by Mike Wallace.

The violin/fiddle pieces were particularly haunting and beautiful, thanks to the virtuoso performance of Barb Lemmon.

John Kaczorowski is brilliant as Floyd Collins, a man who found fame, but not in the way he wanted.

Weiss is a freelance writer who reviews plays for The Pantagraph


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