In the year 1790, Sleepy Hollow, N.Y. is a small town filled with happy families who have learned to live with a few ghostly legends. It’s a town bewitched by tales of the Native American spirits who once inhabited the area, and the more modern ghost of a Hessian solider who lost his head to a stray cannonball in a Revolutionary War battle. In Washington Irving’s short story, the Headless Horseman “rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly quest of his head."
The Cape Cod Theatre Company, home of the Harwich Junior Theatre, production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is a very successful adaptation of the Irving tale written by HJT family members Mary and Andrew Arnault. Written in 1999 and performed on the HJT stage then, the play has won awards and became a published script that has been produced in professional theaters and schools across the country. “I’ve found a renewed love for all the folks in Irving’s wonderful tale…right back on the boards where it was born,” director Mary Arnault wrote in the program for this production.
The village of Sleepy Hollow nestled in a valley is filled with a cast of characters that are wonderfully portrayed by the finest troupe of Cape veteran actors and young talent ever assembled. Amid a forest of trees and stunning skies we meet the Van Tassels, the Van Rippers and their neighbors. They are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new schoolmaster, Ichabod Crane. Youngsters are running around and teens are playfully flirting as the parents wring their hands in anticipation. Soon Crane arrives brimming with grandiose manners that charm most but not all. One who is captivated by his sophistication is Katrina Van Tassel, who a moment ago was basking in the flirtatious teasing of Brom Bones. The Van Tassels are a wealthy family and it doesn’t take Crane long to realize that marrying Katrina would be advantageous. Has Crane forgotten about Brom Bones? What does Brom have up his sleeve to curb Ichabod’s ardor?
Geof Newton, new to the CCTC/HJT stage but known to many Cape theatergoers, plays the role of Ichabod Crane. Newton captures every nuance of the character: the buffoon, the wise scholar, the smitten fool and the conniver. The fabulous Karen McPherson, reprising her scene-stealing role of the hard-of-hearing yet outspoken Grandmother, doesn’t miss a beat. Rich Archer is back too but instead of portraying Brom Bones onstage he’s using his magician skills to bring the Headless Horseman to life, which he does brilliantly. My theater companion who was clinging to my arm during the scary scene said, “I can’t believe after just witnessing Ichabod Crane disappearing into the night following his encounter with the Horseman, the power goes out! The power outage happened at the perfect moment, almost seeming planned.” It was good stuff, and the actors just played on like it was in the script.
What a treat to see Garry Mitchell and Janice Bradbury Richmond as the Van Tassels, Lou Maloof as Peter Vedder, and Marcia Thorngate Smith and Rod Owens as the Van Rippers. These brilliant performers never disappoint. Sophie Clingan is enchanting as Katrina and Jack Coughlin’s Brom Bones is spot-on as the cocky yet spurned lover. The young people in the village all have active roles that are crucial to the events that transpire; each stood out at some point throughout the show. These talented folks are Lila Keeney (Gretchen), Kate Paxton (Margaret), Seamus Sartin (Nicholas), Quinn Schuyler (Christian), Tyler Brackett (Diedrich), Hero Peoples (Rolf) and Audrey Smith (Beatrice).
Andrew Arnault’s amazing set design and Archer’s special effects are stars in this production too. Completing the show are Karen Milkey’s costumes, James P. Byrne’s lighting, Robert Wilder’s music and Suzette Hutchinson’s choreography, all under the watchful eye of producing artistic director Nina Schuessler. Shiloh Pabst (light board), Coughlin in a dual role as stage manager and Bones, and backstage crew member Kyra Brimdyr all deserve a high five for their presence of mind during the power outage, as well as during the show.
The show runs about an hour and half with a brief intermission. Keep the spirit of Halloween glowing and get your tickets for this amazing show today!
"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"
At Cape Cod Theatre Company, Home of the Harwich Junior Theatre
Through Nov. 20, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 4 p.m. Additional matinees Saturday Nov. 12 and 19 at 4 p.m.
Information and reservations: 508-432-2002 or www.capecodtheatrecompany.org