127 Hours was a fine film, but now try to imagine it with singing and choreography. That might give you some insight into the blazing originality of Adam Guettel's fact-based musical Floyd Collins, dramatizing the last days of its titular cave explorer. While scoping out Kentucky's Sand Cave, the real Floyd Collins spent about ten days trapped under a rock, in a narrative that galvanized the national tabloid media in 1925. It was a tragedy that was rich in irony; the rock constraining Collins weighed only 16 pounds, but nobody could reach it nonetheless, and he was pinned to the ground only 150 feet from the cave's entrance. Guettel's award-winning musical takes the meat and potatoes of this story and creates a gourmet palette of music and drama, despite the physical limitations of its protagonist. The score is as unusual for a musical as its subject matter; it filters the complex forms of Bartok and Stravinsky through the regional flavors of bluegrass and Americana, a concoction that helped prompt New York Magazine to call Floyd Collins "the daring musical of our day." With its 16 characters, the musical is another ambitious project from the students at UM's Ring Theatre, whose 75th season has been more adventurous than that of most professional theaters.
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