Friday, June 20, 2014

Floyd and Clea Under the Western Sky

Book & Lyrics by:  David Cale 

Music by:  Jonathan Kreisberg & David Cale
Company:  Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center
VenueColorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 West Dale Street, Colorado Springs, CO 80903.
Running Time:  1 hour 45 minutes (no intermission).
Date of Performance:  Thursday, June 19, 2014 (Colorado Premiere).

This performance of Floyd and Clea Under the Western Sky played to an enthusiastic audience and received a standing ovation.  There's a lot to like in Floyd and Clea, and for fans of country music, it's an audio and visual feast.  
Jordan Leigh (Floyd) and Chelsey Ringer (Clea)
Floyd (Jordan Leigh) is a somewhat successful, B list country music singer/songwriter who loses his way.  His career is over, he's spent all his money, he's drinking all day, he's living out of his dusty, rusty Studebaker, and he's running out of reasons to keep on living.  
Clea (Chelsea Ringer) is a young, beautiful, and talented woman who, fortunately for Floyd, stumbles into his life.  
The themes of the script are much like the stories told in thousands of country songs; hard liquor, hard times, loss, desperation, and ultimately, redemption from life's temptations.  When Floyd sings "I'm looking for a safety net," you know he means it; he's always about 30 seconds from ending it all.
Clea is stronger, smarter, and wiser than Floyd, or at least that's how she seems.  She is a force for good for Floyd; their friendship is pretty much all that he has going for him.  She has some serious issues with her deceased father, which explains her need for a surrogate father like Floyd.
The Fine Arts Center company always delivers a first rate production, and Floyd and Clea is no exception.  The acting, the singing, the set, the lighting, the band...all contribute to a beautifully staged performance.  
The lighting, in fact, is extraordinary.  Lighting Designer Holly Anne Rawls has flawlessly lit the stage perfectly, covering it with a marvelous "Western Sky." 
Costume designer Janson Fangio dresses the actors for a Montana winter, a homeless shelter, and honky tonk bar performances.  His costume for Clea's big concert is resplendently trashy, in complete character for Clea at that point.
Chelsea Ringer, Jordan Leigh.  Costumes by Janson Fangio
Leigh's performance is nuanced; he deadpans Floyd's desperation, never complaining.  At one point, Clea accuses him of being homeless; he disagrees.  Clea points out that he lives in his car, but he just shrugs his shoulders.  Leigh has the moves and the voice for country music, and he uses both to his advantage here.  He's a very credible Floyd, who is a very talented but seriously flawed character.
Ringer's first song starts out a capella.  With no accompaniment, she sings a song she "just wrote" for Floyd.  Ringer's first few notes were gorgeous; they brought me to the edge of my seat.  I was stunned by the clarity and the beauty of her voice.  If you're in the audience, I guarantee that you will not forget Ringer's first number.
Musical Director Jay Hahn has assembled a rocking band for Floyd and Clea.  They all have day jobs, but these guys could make a decent living as a country band.  Bobby McGuffin's percussion was particularly notable; he's a talented musician who was having as much fun as the audience.
For all the first rate performances and production values, though, the script is somewhat disappointing.  The main theme here is redemption, but the conclusion is ultimately ambiguous.  I had some misgivings about the script's abrupt and confusing reversal of Clea's character; she goes from saving Floyd from his demons to adopting those same demons for herself.  The script is also devoid of any significant chemistry between the two characters.  They are close friends, who care deeply about, and are attracted to, each other.  At one awkward point, they find themselves together in a motel room.  It was the perfect opportunity to demonstrate some chemistry between the two, but the script provided none.
My quibbles with the script aside, Floyd and Clea is excellent musical theater for both country music fans and theater fans alike.  The standing ovation was sincere, and I'm sure there are many more to follow for Floyd and Clea Under the Western Sky.

This show is suitable for all ages, although parents should be aware that there is one "F" bomb in the script.  Free parking is available across from the Dale Street entrance and on the surrounding streets. 
The Fine Arts Center is featuring a major exhibition of art works by glassblower Dale Chihuly; you may want to consider making the exhibit part of your theater excursion.  There is an additional charge for the Chihuly exhibit, but this is a rare opportunity to see a beautiful collection of work by the most successful glass artist in the world.

This show closes on June 29, 2014. 

Pre or post show dining suggestion:  
The Dale Street Cafe at 115 East Dale Street is within walking distance of the Fine Arts Center, and has an excellent fine dining menu.  We tried the ribeye steak ($21.95), the mahi mahi ($15.95), and the French onion soup. All were delicious, as was the Key Lime Pie for dessert.  For fish fans, there is an extensive selection of sushi available.  With patio seating for al fresco dining, the Dale Street Cafe is a marvelous choice for dinner "Under the Western Sky" of Colorado Springs.

Photo Credits:  Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center; Jeff Kearney, TDC Photography.

Director:  Scott RC Levy
Musical Director:  Jay Hahn
Set Design: Christopher L. Sheley
Lighting Design:  Holly Anne Rawls
Costume Design:  Janson Fangio

Floyd:  Jordan Leigh
Clea:  Chelsea Ringer

Guitars:  Jim Christian & Jim Robertson
Percussion:  Bobby McGuffin

Bass:  Jay McGuffin

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