'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow' at the Ohio Shakespeare Festival is a Kid-Friendly Musical Done the Right Way

And adults will have a blast too

click to enlarge 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow' at the Ohio Shakespeare Festival is a Kid-Friendly Musical Done the Right Way
Photo by Scott Custer

So-called "family friendly" theater is a mixed bag, especially when it comes to shows created in recent years. Too often, such shows are far too complicated plot-wise for kids to just relax and experience the joys of a live play performed just for them.

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," a musical scare-fest now at the Ohio Shakespeare Festival in Akron, is a prime example of how to do a kid-friendly show the right way. Written by local theater professionals Joe and Sarah Pine, the story based on Washington Irving's "Headless Horseman" features comically flawed hero Ichabod Crane (Adam Bash), a lovely maiden Katrina Van Tassel (Sara Katrenich), and a boisterous bad guy Brom Bones (Derrick Winger).

Ichabod is the frail and bookish new schoolteacher who is drawn to blonde and svelte Katrina, but he is challenged by Brom who is built like an NFL defensive end. He is attended by three hench-dudes (vigorously handled by Ross Carmichael, Dimitri Georgiadis and David Monter) who are happy to be abused by Brom to stay on his good side and help him win Katrina's affections.

Katrina also has her own entourage, three young women all named Sarah (Natalie Sheen, Maya Nicholson, and Hannah Jean Salman) and they are a treat to watch as they assist Kat while pursuing their own dalliances.

The original music and lyrics by Scott McKenna Campbell are fun and mostly tuneful, especially "Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself...and Ghosts, and Sprites, and Ghouls" and the ditty "She'll Come Around" when Ichabod muses on his sketchy chances to get close with Kat.

The creators and director Nancy Cates clearly know their target audience, so the dialogue scenes are frequently enlivened by pratfalls, slapstick, and sword fights. Indeed, the show begins with a swordfight before we've even met one character, a suitable beginning since dueling rapiers are a part of the DNA of the Ohio Shakespeare Festival.

In Act Two, the story revolves around a glorious Halloween ball, complete with a tongue-twister contest, pumpkin carving, and a story time in which Brom and his bros enact the folklore of the gruesome, terrifying Headless Horseman ("They say the head was laughing as it fell!").

While the performances are consistently fun and energetic, the male singing voices are barely capable at best. The female voices are better, but you may not notice with all the performers sliding, jumping and romping across the two-level set.

The show includes a surprise at the end, one that really isn't supported by what came before, but it's a head-spinning twist on the usual fairytale conclusions. "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" should be a surefire hit with the kids, also for the adults who tag along with them.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Through October 23 produced by the Ohio Shakespeare Festival at Greystone Hall, 103 S. High St., Akron, [email protected], 330-5-SHAKES.

About The Author

Christine Howey

Christine Howey has been reviewing theater since 1997, first at Cleveland Free Times and then for other publications including City Pages in Minneapolis, MN and The Plain Dealer. Her blog, Rave and Pan, also features her play reviews. Christine is a former stage actor and director, primarily at Dobama Theatre...
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