‘Floyd Collins’: ‘127 Hours’ the musical

Clara Bartlett

From May 2 through May 18, “Floyd Collins” will grace the Alexander Stage in Harper Joy Theatre. Directed by Michael Walling and stage-managed by Sabra Jaffe, the musical tells the story, based on true events, of a man (Floyd Collins) who, while exploring a Kentucky cave in 1925, became trapped.

Getting a sneak peak at rehearsal, The Pioneer reports.

The best word one can use to describe “Floyd Collins” is “acrobatics.” Looking up this word for a specific definition, the term “athletic floor exercises” immediately pops up. But let it be clarified, when talking about “Floyd Collins” in relation to “acrobatics,” the sense inferred is not linked to somersaults or gymnastics, but to the challenge of balancing the difficult demands of the show, and the audience’s awe of the success of such stunts.

Randy Brooks as Floyd Collins. Photos by Faith Bernstein.
Randy Brooks as Floyd Collins. Photos by Faith Bernstein.

To start, “Floyd Collins” is vocal acrobatics epitomized.

“It’s super good music, but the orchestration from top to bottom is just so difficult,” said first-year Randy Brooks, who plays the role of Floyd Collins.

Junior Zoe Randol agrees.

“The music was definitely the most challenging aspect. It can be very deceiving when you hear it, but the score is incredibly difficult,” she said. “It’s a mix between bluegrass and opera, which is a very strange mix, and it sounds amazing, but it’s extremely difficult to do, especially for some of the men for this show and the actress who plays Nellie. It’s really, really difficult stuff. But they’re doing very well. We’re all doing very well, I think.”

Junior Russell Sperberg, playing Floyd’s brother Homer, also discussed the difficulties of the show.

“The music has been really difficult. I’m usually a baritone, but the music for Homer is for a tenor. So I can hit all of them except one note, which we had to drop down. But, now that we’ve been through the process, it’s just a lot easier; it’s just so much more fun.”

And even during a pre-dress rehearsal performance, success and fun in the face of vocal challenge was very apparent, the cast pulling off vocal stunt after vocal stunt.

Taking place both above and underground in a cave, the show also includes a dynamic and elaborate set. Wooden lattices, arranged in a geometric pattern giving the impression of layered rock, are pushed around stage to draw a distinction between the action that occurs in the cave and the action that occurs above. But interestingly enough, the two sets are always connected.

“I’m onstage the entire show,” said Brooks.

Just as Floyd Collins’ fate lurks in the back of our minds throughout the show, the character of Collins literally lurks on stage the entire time. Making for yet another challenge, the main character, doing a miraculous amount of singing, has no water onstage.

But this is not to say the other characters get off easy; climbing, hanging and jumping from the wooden lattices, characters are constantly maneuvering the elaborate set.

“If you’ve seen a musical, don’t come with any ideas of what a musical should be, because this is not like that at all,” said Brooks.