A dreamer's tale
Floyd Collins’ gravestone bears the inscription “the greatest cave explorer ever known.”
Frankly, I’d never heard of Collins before last summer when Live Arts announced plans to produce the musical version of his story as their season finale. But, had any of us been adults in 1925, we’d have known exactly who he was and how he died.
Collins’ family owned Crystal Cave in Kentucky, which Floyd, a poor farmer, believed somehow connected to the Mammoth Cave system, a popular and lucrative tourist spot. Hoping to cash in on the bigger cave’s allure, Collins was determined to find the connection.
In January 1925, after a day of exploring, he was nearly out of the cave when a large rock fell on his foot and pinned him in place. The two-week vigil and rescue effort that followed became the biggest human interest story of the day. It was a world-wide phenomenon.
Unfortunately, Collins died before he could be rescued, but his story has become legend. In the mid-1990s Adam Guettel and Tina Landau crafted the musical Floyd Collins, which won the Lucille Lortel Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical in 1996. The score has been called bluegrass-tinged with Sondheim-esque influences.
John Gibson, artistic director at Live Arts, is at the helm of this production, joined by Doug Schneider, who has appeared in dozens of local plays, as musical director. Chris Estey, who has performed with Offstage and Live Arts, plays Floyd.
“This is the best musical score of the past decade,” Gibson claims. “I’m thrilled that Charlottesville will get to hear it.”
Floyd Collins begins its official run Friday, May 31, with a champagne reception to follow. Regular performance dates are June 1, June 5-9, June 12-16, and June 18-22. Shows on June 14 and June 20 are already sold out. All Wednesday performances are pay what you can nights and start at 8pm. The Tuesday show and all regular Thursday shows, “early bird” performances, begin at 7:30pm. All Friday and Saturday performances start at 8pm, and the Sunday matinees on June 9 and 16 begin at 2pm. Live Arts, 609 E. Market St. $12-15. 977-4177