Roll on

The Flood

By Peter Mills and Cara Reichel
Directed by Cara Reichel
Musical direction by Peter Mills
Prospect Theatre Company
Flamboyan Cultural Center
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Julie Halpern

In June and July of 1993, areas of western Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa were hit with the worst devastation in over a century, when the Mississippi River and its tributaries flooded the region. Cara Reichel researched the disaster in 1995, visiting affected areas and gathering information from residents. The river town of Valmeyer, Illinois served as the model for the fictitious town of Meyerville, where the musical takes place. Reichel and Peter Mills have created an intriguing study of a town living out its life in the face of tragedy and its aftermath, vividly depicting the events that changed the lives of Meyerville's residents as they decide whether to leave the area and start new lives or rebuild on higher ground.

Reichel and Mills's characters all have compelling stories to tell that are hinted at, but not quite realized in the production's book. The music could not be better, with numerous opportunities for the talented cast's voices to shine, and some of the most beautiful arrangements and vocal harmonies heard in ages. As the urgency of the impending flood makes its presence undeniable, so does the music grow in urgency and complexity, crescendoing in a number appropriately named "The Flood."

Susan Frye is a teacher who has left Meyerville, only to return to nurse her ailing father. After his death, an old flame, Curtis Mowers, comes back in her life, and they become engaged. Mowers's loyalty to Meyerville and Susan's desire to leave come to a head after the flood, when Susan realizes she is relieved to see her home and possessions float away, giving her total freedom from her old life. Their neighbors, Mayor Keller and his teenage son Raleigh, are also in constant conflict over Meyerville, with the bored Raleigh planning his escape with Alice Wright, the daughter of another neighbor, Ezekiel Wright, a disillusioned Vietnam vet.

The proceedings were tightly controlled by the glamorous female personification of the River, which beckons and ultimately drowns Alice's retarded sister Rosemary. The production was flawlessly cast with a standout performance by Larry Brustofski as Ezekiel, the lonely, iconoclastic veteran. His glorious baritone voice soared in "One Man With A Shovel" and "Pass It On." Mary Mossberg's Susan was empathetic and multifaceted. Her warm mezzo voice was a joy in the powerfully ironic song "Float." Richard Todd Adams was a strong-voiced presence as Curtis, a nice guy who must come to grips with losing Susan. Gabriel Creel communicated Raleigh's pent-up energy in "Highway Miles." Joseph O'Brien was extremely sympathetic as the mayor, whose entire life revolves around Meyerville. Kate Bradner was a romantic, sweet-voiced Alice, and Jennifer Blood an ethereal, haunting presence as Rosemary. Simone Zamore's sensual, all-knowing River was a showcase for her three-octave soprano voice and sensual dance movement.

The production was also blessed with an exceptional ensemble who played a variety of supporting roles and performed the complicated group numbers "One Hundred Years," "The House Came Down," and "Higher Ground" exquisitely. They were William Brock, Sarah Corey, Tom Evans, Daniel Feyer, Leon Land Gersing, Carol Hickey, Tracy Kaufman, Erin Romero, Jaime Valles, Tony Valles, Emily Whyte, Craig Wilson, Zach Wobensmith, and Maddy Wyatt.

Set designer Sarah Rosa's flowing, diaphanous fabrics were effective in depicting the flood; Jiyoun Chang created otherworldly effects with greenish lights and fog; and David Kaley's no-nonsense small-town garb was just right.

Box Score:

Book 1/Music 2
Directing: 2
Performance: 2
Sets: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2001 Julie Halpern