Dan Tracy plays Floyd Collins at Creighton From Tony in West Side Story and Siegfried in Das Barbecu to Jesus in Godspell, Dan Tracy isn’t new to musical theater leads at Creighton University and elsewhere. But his title role in Floyd Collins is “the most unique role I’ve played.” Only lucky Lindy himself, Charles Lindbergh, captured more headlines in the 1920s than the Kentucky spelunker trapped in a cave. Collins also thought himself lucky until caught by a rock 150 feet underground. And Tracy, now a senior, finds himself fortunate to be working with musical director Stephen Sheftz and Kevin Lawler, who is directing a musical for the first time after establishing a lofty reputation guiding such powerful drama as The Death of a Salesman last season at the Omaha Community Playhouse. Add Lawler to the lucky list. He’s in charge of “one of the first musicals I’ve wanted to direct.” He praises the score by Adam Guettel as “very beautiful, very complex music,” and calls Tracy, his Floyd Collins, “a major, naturally gifted talent.” A New York Times review, while not entirely laudatory, said the story “radiates good faith, moral seriousness and artistic discipline.” It credited Guettel’s score with “genuine beauty,” comparing the composer’s music to the Americana of Copeland and the dissonance of Sondheim. Its big hit, covered by several artists, is “How Glory Goes,” and others applaud “Daybreak” for its beauty. Reviews have also cited a “jaunty, acerbic song” about inventing the news. America had rarely seen such a media circus as the coverage of the trapped cave explorer in 1925. Tracy and Lawler are still exploring Collins’ character as they rehearse the story by Tina Landau. “My approach,” Lawler explained, “is to wait until he comes to me with questions. Then I answer with questions for him.” To Tracy, Collins is a heroic figure with a tragic flaw. He’s “confidently seeking glory” and “feeling lucky” until he’s trapped and discovers “How Glory Goes.” Among the challenges for the Creighton senior: He spends 90 percent of the show trapped in one spot. At times, he sings into the cave and his voice echoes back. Eventually, Collins must come to terms with the fact that he is dying. Tracy came from a family where “it was mandatory that we all took piano lessons,” a requirement that he only came to appreciate much later. “I honestly wasn’t really into music until a junior and senior in high school.” He attended Gross Catholic High School where he became active in a jazz combo called Doubleshot. “The others were really good musicians” who later studied jazz as university students. It took a freshman year at the University of Dallas before he enrolled as a sophomore at Creighton focused on musical theater. He credits that program’s Sheftz and his voice teacher, Diane Owens, for guiding his musical progress as a Bluejay. When he graduates with a full theater resume, Tracy will decide between graduate school, living in New York City or broadening his experience in Omaha by seeking roles at the Playhouse and other venues. He’s joined in the musical by a cast that includes Patrick Kilcoyne as Skeets Miller, a journalist small enough to reach Collins through a narrow passage, and Adam Fieldson and Ariel Talacko as Homer and Nellie Collins, the caver’s brother and sister. A seven-piece orchestra accompanies the cast. Director Lawler believes Collins became such a big story “because deep inside our psyche we have a fear of being buried under the earth, a fear connected to death.” He compares the hope for escape from the cave to the hope of a reprieve from death. He finds it “totally invigorating” dealing with a story that contrasts the loneliness of Collins in the dark of the cave with the media circus above. Noting the recent interest in the trapped Chilean miners, he imagines a huge national celebration when they are freed. Floyd Collins runs Sept. 22-25, at 7:30 p.m., and 2 p.m. Sept. 26 at Creighton University’s Lied Center Studio Theater. Tickets are $15, $12 seniors, $5 students. Call 280.1448.

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