As Christmas looms ever closer it brings with it the handover of one year to another; one venue which can look back at 2011 and also ahead to 2012 with a sense of satisfaction and a big ol’ smile is the Southwark Playhouse. It has enjoyed a high volume of interest through the staging of some fantastic plays and musicals, which have proved to be popular with audiences and succeeded in highlighting the high quality productions that can be found off-West End. Two of the more recent productions that contributed to this opening of minds and drawing in of new faces were the revivals of Jason Robert Brown’s musical, Parade and Hannah Cowley’s 1780 play, The Belle’s Stratagem, which ran at the Playhouse simultaneously in August/September 2011.
Peter Huntley, who is a 2010/2011 Stage One Bursary recipient, produced The Belle’s Stratagem (in association with Red Handed Theatre) and in 2012, is bringing another revival to the Southwark Playhouse. Since the announcement that the musical production of Floyd Collins will be coming to the Playhouse in February 2012, it has already created quite a buzz and looks set to continue boosting the theatre’s profile.
Floyd Collins first appeared in 1994 after being commissioned by the American Music Theater Festival, Philadelphia, followed with a New York production by Playwright’s Horizons in 1996. Inspired by the true story of the Kentucky caver, the musical charts the events of the media circus that occurs when he becomes trapped 55-feet underground after a cave-in, from the various rescue attempts that are made, the above-ground reaction to the disaster and the angst that his family suffer. It premiered in London at the Bridewell Theatre in 1999 and this new production, which has been specially conceived for the ‘cavernous depths of the Southwark Playhouse’s Vault space’, will mark the first London revival in more than ten years.
Written by Tina Landau, whose previous work includes Space and States of Independence, among others, Floyd Collins also features music and lyrics by Adam Guettel, whose 2005 Broadway musical, The Light in the Piazza, received six Tony Awards and five Drama Desk Awards. Director Derek Bond, artistic associate of Theatre503, adds Floyd Collins to a repertoire that already includes Saraband and – as associate director – Cabaret, The History Boys, Desperately Seeking Susan and more.
Last week, the first cast announcements were made to great excitement: Glenn Carter and Robyn North as Floyd Collins and Nellie Collins respectively are to lead the cast, which also features Vlach Ashton (Reporter), Kit Benjamin (Carmichael), Dale Hodge (Reporter and Dance Captain), Donovan Preston (Jewell Estes), Ryan Sampson (‘Skeets’ Miller) and Jane Webster (Miss Jane). Glenn Carter most recently appeared in Exonerated at the Charing Cross Theatre and his previous credits include Les Miserables, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Whistle Down the Wind (West End & UK tour) and Jersey Boys, where he played the role of Tommy Devito in the original London cast. He also made his Broadway debut in 2000 in the title role of Jesus Chris Superstar. Robyn North is probably best known for her portrayal of Christine Daae in the West End production of The Phantom of the Opera, a role she played for three years, as well as recently appearing in the 25th production of the musical at the Royal Albert Hall. North has also toured in Masterclass and Thoroughly Modern Millie and released her debut album ‘Make Believe’, in 2008 which featured a duet with former Phantom co-star, Ramin Karimloo.
Floyd Collins is part of a new fundraising resource, which is a collaboration between Peter Huntley Productions and British Theatre. Similar to other crowd-funding schemes, it offers members of the public the opportunity to make a financial contribution to the forthcoming revival in return for perks, the contents of which differentiate depending on the size of the donation. Ranging from £10 – £1000, you can buy a perk which consists of a simple ‘Thank You’ tweet from the producer and backstage footages, through to a signed poster, an exclusive download of ‘The Death of Floyd Collins’ (as sung by a cast member), a name-check in the programme, two tickets for the show and even a walk-on part in one of the performances. Perks are also available to buy for friends in the form of gift certificates – with Christmas almost upon us, they make a unique gift for those theatre –loving friends or family members.
Floyd Collins’ begins its six-week run at the Southwark Playhouse on 28th February 2012 and continues through to 31st March 2012, with previews from 22nd February 2012. Tickets are now available to buy and the earlier you book, the cheaper they are, with tickets currently on offer for as little as £10. If there’s one musical you’ll want to see in 2012, it’s going to be Floyd Collins.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
22nd December 2011