PROVO — The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is an old ghost tale by Washington Irving with elements of spook and terror, but a feeling of jovial fun to lighten the mood for the younger crowd. The town of Sleepy Hollow is aptly named for the feeling that it bestows upon all who enter, except for one. Ichabod Crane, the new schoolmaster, has his nose in a book, but his head in the clouds. A man full of superstitions and nerves is a perfect target for the town jokester, Brom Bones, especially in a town as full of old haunts and ghouls as Sleepy Hollow. This play also retells the love story of Ichabod and Katrina Van Tassel, while Brom tries his best to step in and steal her heart, all the while telling legend of ghosts and spirits inhabiting the town this teacher has found himself in.
The Provo Covey Center for the Arts in Provo put on a production of Sleepy Hollow that was a night of laughs and spooks. The show opened with an announcement of story-telling beforehand, to set the mood, with the show to follow. As the show itself started, and the actors all came on stage without microphones of any kind, there was a momentary worry that without the extra help, the sound might be lost. However, that worry was quickly dissipated when every actor held their own with strength and solid diction. This particular adaptation, written by Kathryn Schultz Miller, had four roles written as narrators of sorts, whose responsibility it was to simultaneously tell the story and fill in the smaller roles to support the story they themselves told. In several moments of the show, the switch was so sudden that it was hard to tell what capacity they found themselves in that moment, whether silent observers or members of the town itself. While that was a concern through the show, there were moments where the decision to blur the line was deliberate and concise, adding a laugh here and there.
Brom Bones, played by Eric Geels, was the boisterous and entertaining character that he was expected to be, and had an air about him while telling ghoul stories that gave a chill and showed just how much he really wanted Ichabod out of the way. Katrina Van Tassel, portrayed by Mariah Bowels, served as a romantic interest for Ichabod, but unfortunately not much more. It seemed that as Bowels recited lines, it was simply that: recitation and blocking. Her character had potential, and in some scenes the characterization was more developed, especially while being escorted by either leading man, and leading them on. But Bowels’s efforts seemed to fall flat in most scenes.
Ichabod Crane was played by Tyler Fox, who was a smooth embodiment his character. The detailed description of Ichabod in the first ten minutes of the show seemed to fit Fox himself as he first entered the stage. Fox’s performance was entertaining and convincing as Ichabod was obsessed with his books and involved in his superstitions. The terror and jubilation Fox displays through the different scenarios was committed and complete.
In a production of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, one of the most important elements is the setting itself, and set designer Dan James accomplished the feeling of a sleepy little town riddled with old ghosts and haunts. The set of trees and benches was simplistic in nature, but intricate in the details. Director Jarom Brown took the classic story and brought it to life with a feel of farce and humor not normally associated with the spooky haunt. The decision specifically to mime all animals was a choice that while mostly humorous in nature, was accomplished in a professional manner that impressed me. The music and sound effects through the production were all fitting and well transitioned, along with the lighting designed by Pam Davis, which often was the only indication of a scene change.
If you are in the mood for a laugh with your spook, then The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is the perfect seasonal treat for you. The show is well cast and well directed. Thanks to the staff at the Covey Center, Utah theatre audiences have an excellent Halloween entertainment option that balances the spirit of Halloween with humor and heart.