My love of theater began with musicals and while I have a much wider appreciation for all theater, a good old-fashioned musical still warms my heart. Sleepy Hollow is just that, a good old-fashioned musical. I have to admit, coming into this, I haven’t seen the Disney version of this show and really have no reference for the story line.
My greatest surprise was to find that this show is home grown, written and directed by Jim Christian with music from Tom Edward Clark. It originally premiered with Weber State University in 2009 and went on to win the National Musical Theater and Playwriting Award from the Kennedy Center. And now, we get the distinct pleasure to experience this production at CenterPoint.
For those of you who may be lacking Sleepy Hollow plot knowledge, I can only share with you the plot from this production – which I thoroughly enjoyed. The show opens with a School Master fleeing the town of Sleep Hollow and the town’s members pleading with him not to go. Unfortunately, the sound at the beginning was not good and I missed most of the opening number. While I couldn’t hear the lyrics, I did enjoy the tempo of the music and could tell right away that I was going to enjoy myself.
Enter Ichabod Crane (Daniel Frederickson was fantastic), a stuck up, conceited, ill-tempered jerk. The show certainly creates a despicable character in this guy. However, it appears that the town’s people believe him to be the key to ending the curse that plagues Sleepy Hollow. Apparently, the entire town is haunted by poltergeists (special effects in the classroom were great, would have liked to see more of these) including the notorious headless horseman. In addition, they have the bad misfortune of not being able to leave the towns boundaries. I’m still unclear why the School Masters can come and go and why this is such a sticking point in the plot. I enjoyed the riddle of the curse Heads or Tails and loved how the answer came about!
And what would a good old-fashioned musical be without a love story – found here between Brom Van Bron (Brett Bradford was brilliant) and Katrina Van Tassel (Angie Winegar)? I was very impressed with the vocal talent found among all actors in this production. Frederickson, Bradford and Winegar were all very impressive. While Winegar has one of the most beautiful voices I’ve heard, I found the connection to her character lacking. Unfortunately, when she wasn’t singing, I felt she was simply reciting lines. I didn’t feel a range of emotion or depth.
For me, I like a character to be a little sympathetic. Even though Crane was the bad guy, I would’ve liked to be able to connect with him more and care if he lived or died. I know that this is based on Disney though and we typically have flat villains that represent the bad guys. While this is a family friendly show, I would have liked to see a side of him that created a bit more sympathy.
As for some of the side-characters, I really enjoyed McKenna Silvester’s (Dorine) voice. Kyle Allen (Faas) and Maegan Madill (Rosalie) were always fun to watch and seemed well connected and present with their characters. They both had a strong stage presence and vocal projections (especially Allen). I often found myself looking to them for reactions during the show.
As for the sound and music – I’m not sure how I felt. Other than the opening scene, the sound system was great. At times, the orchestrations were beautiful and sounded great. At other times, I found actors coming in too early or late or pausing to wait for the music to catch up. I feel the music and the show in general can afford to tighten up this area quite a bit. This may also help with the nearly 3 hour run time (with intermission).
This goes for the scene transitions as well. They took far too long, which immediately breaks the magic and mood of live theater. In addition, the actors would all be in place and the music would go on for another 5-8 seconds (yes, I counted). The last scene change was the best, they had action going on at the front of the stage that kept the pace of the show going, while the set changed behind. I would encourage more transitions like this.
On the note of music, I enjoyed a majority of the songs. It felt reminiscent of Music Man and Wildhorn (Scarlet Pimpernel, Civil War and Jekyll and Hyde). “All That We’ve Longed For” and “Never Spare the Rod” really got me into the show. “The Best Man,” “Upon,” “Enough,” “Vanished,” “Make it Mine” (very Sondheimish) and the “Final Tale” were all outstanding from every perspective. Though, I would have liked more staging and use of the space in “Best Man” and “Your Heart With Mine” (like transition into a couples first dance).
I’ve already looked online for information on a potential recording. I found a very dated website and Facebook page but no mention of a recording. I would love if a member of this production has any insider information on this. I would like to get my hands on demo version if that is all that is available.
The dancing choreography was fun and came together nicely. I also really liked the choreography of the headless horse scene. I felt the costumes (very well done on headless horseman and horses) and lighting really prevailed here (the lighting in Scene 7 was outstanding). Again though, it needs to be tightened up. The design was great, the rearing of the horse was awkward and the tempo needs to be triple time. I felt they were on a leisurely gallop rather than a life and death pursuit.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this production. It is very family friendly, but perhaps a bit slow at times to hold a young one’s captivated interest. Again, I am itching for a copy of the soundtrack and am excited to see what comes next for the creators, cast and CenterPoint.
Sleepy Hollow is playing thorough November 12 in Centerville. You can find out more information about CenterPoint Legacy Theater, this production and tickets by visiting their website here.