Photo Flash: SLEEPY HOLLOW Awakens The West Village

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As long autumn shadows cast their spell across Greenwich Village, the days grow shorter and the nights grow restless and long, enticing the Headless Horseman to realize his lonely, faithful quest. Sleepy Hollow, an original musical by Michael Sgouros and Brenda Bell, which began previews on September 28th at The Players Theatre in New York City's Greenwich Village, reveals a haunting deeper than the woods of the hollow. Its shadows are cast from the darkness of the human soul.

At the center of the story is the elusive Headless Horseman (Jacob Louchheim), a soldier fabled to have lost his head in battle in the real-life Tarrytown, New York. In 1820, Washington Irving, a curator of folklore himself, took the fabric of this tale and spun it into the bewitching classic "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". "Sleepy Hollow" the musical follows the trials of the ill-fated Ichabod Crane (Richard Lisenby) and the events that led him to his fatal chase with the Headless Horseman.

Washington Irving's original story did hold its challenges for playwright Brenda Bell. "Irving is a beautiful, fanciful writer. He often goes on at length with detailed descriptions of everything from the sound of rustling leave to the delights of a lavish dessert tray. This is a wonderful treat for readers but sometimes difficult to adapt for the stage" noted Bell. I wanted to stay true to all the story elements while digging deeper into the characters themselves. I wanted to know why Ichabod Crane was so cold - so hollow".

"Everyone gets lost in the Hollow sooner or later; can't help it, it's our nature" warns Hans Van Ripper (Eric Fletcher) during his first meeting with the naive Ichabod Crane. The nature that Van Ripper speaks of is human nature. The hollow asks those who venture into its shadow "What do you fear most?" The Hollow compels us to face our deepest fears. Ichabod, a man nursing his wounds from emotional battles with cheating lovers and bullish rivals, fears that he will never be loved. So much so that he rejects any chance for true love, preferring his relationships to resemble business deals (he is attracted to Katrina Van Tassel's (Anna Gion) family-given comforts) which he explores in his tragic ballad "The Not in Love Song".

Bell used historical resources to assist in developing the characters of the Tarrytown folk. "I learned that Dutch women of that period were very independent and strong" said Bell. This research led to a different take on Lady Van Tassel (Sue-Ellen Mandell) and the development of the song "Never Sit Out the Dance" where she gives sage advice to her daughter Katrina and best friend Anna (Rebecca Pomeranz) while revealing her longing and regret which she so carefully conceals. The musical "Sleepy Hollow" explores the local folk of this enchanted Hollow; exposing their fears as well as their flaws, offering a slice of this early American Dutch community as tasty as Lady Van Tassel's wicked apple pie.

The eerie choreography by Bekah Shade executed with perfection by dancers Chrisy Kakurai, Dustin Schlairet and Katerine Winter, who portray the spirits of the hollow. Elizabeth Chaney's haunting set design enable the hollow to always be present, subtly encroaching on the residents of Sleepy Hollow as well as any unfortunate visitors.

The musical features a live ensemble comprised of cello and percussion. Sgouros, a Julliard-trained percussionist, chose this specific orchestration for its diverse nature. "Two percussionist play over 30 instruments during the show" remarked Mr. Sgouros adding that the cello's wide range allows for a great deal of variation from one musician. Percussion also lends itself to the creation of non-melodic sounds, including eerie sound effects in the Hollow created by using a violin bow on the side of the vibraphone.

Just in time for HOLLOWeen "Sleepy Hollow" runs through November 11th at The Players Theatre located at 115 MacDougal Street (between Bleecker and West 3rd). Tickets are $32-$62 and can be purchased through or by calling 212-352-3101 or at the box office which opens daily at 11a. Performances are on Thursday & Saturday at 7p and Sundays at 2p.

Photo Credit: Martin Harris

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