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Review: THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW at Players on High at the Carlisle Theatre

Review: THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW at Players on High at the Carlisle Theatre

Enjoy a whimsical adaptation of a classic tale

Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, a tale of the townspeople of Sleepy Hollow, schoolmaster Ichabod Crane, and the spectral headless horseman, has delighted fans of spooky stories since its first publication in 1820. Today, it has been adapted for the screen and the stage. The stage adaptation by Hans Bloedel and Peter Bloedel makes its appearance at Carlisle Theatre under the direction of Ashley Shade Byerts through October 23rd.

Upon entering the theatre, the audience is welcomed to the town of Sleepy Hollow, with a dreamlike image of a path through the woods, a shaft of sunlight falling on a pumpkin, and fog. It is a delightfully spooky set that immediately takes the imagination into a small, tight-knit community of mischievous children and skilled storytellers. The opening of the play keeps the feeling of mystery and anticipation alive as the actors dance across the stage in a beautiful backlit series of haunting movements.

The show, which is in verse, is a combination of whimsy and comedy, with just the right amount of spooky. The actors all handle the poetic nature of the writing well, and though there were a few issues with sound and balance on opening night, the dialogue flows beautifully and seamlessly from one character to the next. At times the characters talk directly to the audience, narrating the story, while at other times they are part of the story. Even the set changes are done in such a way that the action never ceases, the dreamlike nature of the play is maintained, and the audience is carried along in the flow of the words.

The Gossips, Boys, and Students who inhabit the town are played by Tara Mead (also Dame Van Tassel), Catie M.O. (also Mother Van Pynner), Hadley M. Qualls, Eva Ball, Faith Brown, Roma Cervino, Abby Moore, and Alyanna Montgomery (also Dirk Vanderflat). These actors bring the stage to life with their expressions, movements, and rapid-fire dialogue, often acting as a cohesive unit rather than as individual characters. From these characters the audience learns about Brom Bones and Ichabod Crane and the ways in which they were viewed by the townsfolk and the ways in which they saw themselves and one another.

John Fitzgerald and Dave Lang take on the roles of Parson Van Pastor and Hans Van Ripper, two of the town's self-appointed guardians, who exhibit concern about the new schoolmaster's interest in witchcraft, his ability to keep control in his classroom, the attention he receives from the ladies in town, and his tendency to use words incorrectly while claiming to be well-read. These men are played as straightforward men who do not suffer fools well, and are a wonderful contrast to much of the rest of the town, who seem to have fallen under Ichabod's spell.

The Van Tassel family, the wealthiest family in the town, are portrayed by Russel A. Moore as Baltus, Tara Mead as Wife, and Ashley Sheffe as Katrina. Moore and Mead have wonderful chemistry on stage, bringing a liveliness bordering on boisterousness to the Van Tassel couple. Sheffe's Katrina is more aloof and poised, with a biting wit. Katrina stands out from the rest of the townsfolk, making it easy to see why Ichabod and Brom Bones are both entranced by her (as well as her family's wealth).

The voice of Cotton Mather, performed by R.J. Lesch, plays through Ichabod's mind at key points in the story, showing the audience Ichabod's predilection toward the fanciful. This, along with the telling of the story of the Headless Horseman by Debra Cornelius as Dame Van Winkle and Shane Shuma as Brom Bones, sets the stage for Ichabod's eventual fate.

Shane Shuma gives a strong performance as Brom Bones, the egotistical, rough around the edges prankster vying for Katrina's affections. His posture and gait demonstrate Brom's confidence and swagger, and his recitation of the tale of the Headless Horseman draws the audience into the narrative. His character is the complete opposite of Ricardo Graham's Ichabod Crane (though they both have rather large egos). Graham's Crane is a charming though awkward daydreamer. Graham's performance of Ichabod fleeing through the woods from what he believes to be the Headless Horseman is the spookiest and most intense part of the play.

This adaptation of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow performed by such a talented cast will have audiences sitting up in their seats, laughing aloud at the antics of the townsfolk, and wondering just what did happen to Ichabod Crane on that fateful night. Join the cast and crew of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow at Carlisle Theatre for an evening of spooky whimsy. Show information and tickets can be found at https://cloud.broadwayworld.com/rec/ticketclick.cfm?fromlink=2203447®id=194&articlelink=https%3A%2F%2Fcarlisletheatre.org%2Fplayers-on-high%2F?utm_source=BWW2022&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=article&utm_content=bottombuybutton1.


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Andrea Stephenson’s love of music and theatre was nurtured by her parents. She started performing as a singer and actor in elementary school, and her passion for the performing arts grew thro... (read more about this author)


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