BWW Reviews: The Aurora Fox Theatre Presents a Spooky Delight with THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
The Regional Premiere of Washington Irving's THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW adapted by Christopher Cook is running now through November 3rd at The Aurora Fox Arts Center. When bumbling schoolmaster Ichabod Crane (Liam Speros) arrives in the peaceful little hamlet of Sleepy Hollow, he is greeted with cautionary tales of ghosts and goblins, a favorite being that of a beheaded Revolutionary War soldier who still rides at night in search of his head. Crane, being the superstitious type, believes every word. In no time, Ichabod settles into his role as teacher, disciplinarian, choir leader, and rotating houseguest. It doesn't take long for him to develop a crush on Katrina Van Tassel (Heather Taylor), the lovely daughter of the town's wealthiest family. But Katrina already has a suitor, Abraham "Brom Bones" Van Brunt (Michael Travis Risner), notorious for his boisterous personality, love of pranks, and great skill at wielding a sword. Tensions rise as the romantic rivalry brews, culminating in a terrifying midnight ride and the mysterious disappearance of Ichabod Crane. With a host of characters as colorful as they are authentic, and the tapestry of Washington Irving's original words painted in rich images, suspense abounds in this tale of dark humor and gothic horror.
Leonard Barrett as Knickerbocker was the perfect narrator and his rich and warm voice guided the plot along with ease and charm. Liam Speros was much younger than other Ichabod Crane's that I have seen in either live performance or on television, but he was excellent. His skinny physique gave that goofy and awkward charm and the audience was drawn to him. He was varied and gave so much variety to this iconic role and I look forward to seeing him onstage again. Michael Travis Risner brought his wonderful voice and all his suave and charm to the role of nemesis, Brom Bones and was just a delight to watch. Heather Taylor as the love interest, Katrina Van Tassel was also quite lovely and I adored her innocence and sweet encounters with Ichabod. Her parents (played by the talented Michael O'Shea and Lindsey Pierce) were so sweet and had great chemistry together. On the opposite side of the spectrum were the mysteriously menacing yet hilarious Robert Michael Sanders and Boni McIntyre as Ichabod's innkeepers, the Van Rippers. I also have to mention Missy Moore as Judith Gardenier who had a smaller role, but added so much to the suspense of the show and Jude Moran as the undertaker, Mort Vanderghast whose minor role was hilarious and memorable. Actually the entire ensemble worked to cohesively to make this production a thoroughly one.
Director Charles Dean Packard really did take the time to think of every detail when it came to this age old story a beloved classic. From outstanding casting and awesome effects that left the audience in awe, this was another achievement in his talented career. The scene design by Jen Orf was truly something to behold and I loved every aspect of it from the sand floor, the mounds of hay, and the surrounding forest filled with nooks and crannies for the cast to pop out of. I also appreciated the set transformation for the many scenes that along with the talents of properties designer and set dresser extraordinaire, Lindsay Sullivan transported us back to the days of colonial America. I especially love the special attention to the battle scene with an impressive canon that wakes you right into the first scene, those special props for the sewing/crafting circle, and those pumpkin lanterns. I am not sure who came up with those amazing special effects, but the use of flames were a highlight of the evening and I was in awe of the fireplace and the flaming pumpkin. Lighting designer Shannon McKinney also pulled out all the stops with her effects and touches and enhanced every scene. Along with that was the sound by El Armstrong that was filled with special effects and great music. The costumes by the talented Sharon McClaury were simply superb and completely appropriate for the time period filled with color and tapestry. I really enjoyed the wonderful costumes in the Van Tassel's ball. Nice job done by all involved to make this another highlight of the season with a wonderful story and insight into the life of Ichabod Crane filled with suspense, comedy, drama, and delight!