Perhaps one of the most striking images associated with Halloween is that of the Headless Horseman. The mysterious figure, an important character in Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, is onstage again in the return engagement of Glass Slipper Theatricals' musical version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, now playing at the Wings Theatre.
The musical, with a book by Meg Belviso, stays quite true to Irving's original tale of Ichabod Crane, the lovely Katrina with whom he becomes enamored, the more earthly man who stands in their way, and the unseen apparition haunting the nearby Sleepy Hollow. Belviso's adaptation is uncomplicated, with a fair amount of humor and period flavor. Unlike other adaptations of Irving's work, there are few hard and fast answers present here. The exact nature and meaning of a significant number of events are left to the audience to determine.
Even better than the book is the score, with Belviso's lyrics set to Eric Baum's music. There are over a dozen songs of a surprising amount of variety, generally crossing between the traditional Broadway-style show song and the more "post-modern" style that is a surprisingly appropriate choice for the subject matter. "A Town Like Ours," a gossip-fest in song, and "That's How Learning Starts," a contrapuntal song for Ichabod and his students, are particularly clever while Ichabod and Katrina's duets are ravishingly beautiful. Though of a couple of the songs last too long and dull their dramatic effectiveness, overall the score is very good.
Unfortunately, the third side of the love triangle that comprises most of the story is slightly weaker. Brian Eric Stivale sings well as Brom Bones, Katrina's current lover and childhood friend. However, he seems slightly less an original character than the others; the presence of a comic sidekick (Lars, played by Ed Smit) and the style of his music (particularly "Who Needs Schoolin'?" in the first act) often make him appear to be an imitation of Gaston from Beauty and the Beast.
Director John DeBlass has generally staged the material simply and effectively, keeping the story moving along swiftly. The biggest lag is near the end of the first act in the first of two chase scenes, which is over almost before you're sure it's begun. His choreographer, Maria Zannieri, stages a strong dance for the party near the end of the show, but some of her other moments - including the opening ballet and the dance in "Who Needs Schoolin'?" leave something to be desired. Deborah R. Rosen's sets and Paul Ziemer's lights are perfectly adequate, and Shana McKay Burns has provided some beautiful costumes.
Though the musical is aimed squarely at family audiences, it is likely adults will enjoy the show more than children, due to the focus on the central love triangle. Scenes dealing with the Headless Horseman are generally few and far between and staged abstractly (though appropriately) when they do come about. DeBlass, Belviso, and Baum create some suspense, particularly near the end, but the show lacks the tension needed to ever be truly scary. Regardless, this adaptation of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow can be appreciated by audience members of any age for its interesting new take on Irving's story and its haunting, beautiful score.
Photos: Deborah R. Rosen
Glass Slipper Theatricals