Wings Theatre has an admirable program (among many they offer during the course of a season) that is devoted to the presentation of new musicals by American authors and composers, geared to a mainstream audience.
The current offering in this series (a co-production with Glass Slipper Theatricals and Joria Productions) is an adaptation of Washington Irving's classic 18-century tale "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."
Alas, Meg Belviso and Eric Baum took their cue from the title and made the show both sleepy and hollow. Belviso's meandering book fails to capitalize on its rich source material. Rather than focus on the central rivalry between the macho Brom and the effete Ichabod Crane for the affections of the lovely Katrina, Belviso gives equal weight to nearly all of the characters. The result was confusing and ultimately boring. (She wasn't helped by John DeBlass's unfocused, uninspired direction, which rarely rose above standard community-theatre invention.) Eric Baum's score may very well be tuneful (it was certainly well-sung), but the two-synthesizer orchestration, heavy on simulated strings, overwhelmed nearly everything and everyone except the strongest-voiced singers.
The cast was the strongest asset of the production. There was not one weak voice in the 10-member ensemble, nor was there one weak performance. Especially outstanding were Kelly Jeanne Grant as Katrina (her rendition of Baum's best song, "Mama Said," was a true highlight), Brian Eric Stivalle as the threatening yet alluring Brom, and Vale Rideout as a more attractive than usual Ichabod. Rideout, in fact, hampered by a ridiculous period wig and a costume that didn't quite work, did quite a lot with his underwritten character; with stronger material, Rideout, Grant, and Stivalle could have burned up the stage with the intensity of their performances. Wayman Ezell had some funny moments as Katrina's stern father, as did Ed Smit as Brom's sidekick Lars.
The physical production was blandly attractive, with unfinished wood settings by Deborah R. Rosen, vaguely colorful period costumes by Shana McKay Burns, and simple but sassy choreography by Maria Zannieri. Paul Ziemer's lights were a little more problematic, as there were sections of the stage that were lit with pristine yellow, blue and white light, while other areas (most notably downstage) were left in darkness and shadow for no apparent reason.
At its best, this Legend of Sleepy Hollow was mildly entertaining, buoyed by the performances of the three leads and a strong-voiced ensemble. But for a wittier, scarier, and more thrilling experience, a trip to the library for the Washington Irving original might be in order.
(Also featuring Beth Covell, Daniel Elborne, Jessica Grant, Leslie Henstock, and Emily Johnson.)
Return to Volume Eight, Number twelve Index
Return to Volume Eight Index
Return to Home Page
Copyright 2001 Doug DeVita