There’s an impressive ambitiousness in the production of The Flood. It boasts a cast of 24 and seven-piece band, both unusual for a production Off-Off-Broadway. Equally substantial is Peter Mills and Cara Reichel’s vision for this musical, loosely based on the floods that devastated communities in Illinois along the Mississippi River in the early 1990s. In addition to bringing the flood itself to the stage, the collaborators examine the lives of eight principal characters and the community’s relationship to the river, anthropomorphically brought to life as a siren calling out to a developmentally challenged teenage girl.
Unfortunately, like the Mississippi swollen to the breaking point by record rains, The Flood has been crammed too full of song and story. While Mills’s often pleasant, beautifully orchestrated music is an asset, his country-tinged score never communicates any real sense of urgency. Even a patriotic tune meant to demonstrate the citizens’ can-do spirit seems strangely downbeat. Reichel’s plodding, almost lethargic, direction further strains the material, which is timely, coming just one year after the devastation inflicted by Hurricane Katrina. Given this resonance, it seems even more remarkable, then, that rather than sweeping audiences away, The Flood only inspires a certain resigned weariness.