SU Conservatory presents ‘Legend of Sleepy Hollow’

Posted: April 8, 2014

The Winchester Star

Shenandoah Conservatory’s production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is a musical reinterpretation of the classic tale written by Washington Irving in 1820. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)
A cast of 16 conservatory students will bring “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” to life this weekend at Shenandoah University. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)

Winchester —Superstition and fear abound in the little town of Sleepy Hollow.

The residents of the small town are set in their ways and not used to outsiders, as school teacher Ichabod Crane finds when he comes there to live. That doesn’t stop him from trying to spread new ideas that challenge the traditional order.

But when rumors start spreading of a headless horsemen wreaking havoc, the townspeople place the blame on Ichabod for this blight on the peaceful village, said Matt Conner, guest director of Shenandoah Conservatory’s production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

The student production is a musical reinterpretation of the classic tale written by Washington Irving in 1820, said Conner, 44, of Arlington. “It is a very old story told in a different way.”

The show will be held at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the Glaize Studio Theatre inside the Ohrstrom-Bryant Theatre. Tickets are $10, or $9 for seniors.

“Legend” is a collaboration between Signature Theatre in Arlington and the conservatory, a relationship that started because Conner had connections to both. He has written and acted in plays at Signature, and he attended Shenandoah for three years in the fine arts and music theater department before starting his career.

He also grew up in Stephens City, is a 1988 graduate of James Wood High School, and attended Lord Fairfax Community College.

Conner co-authored the show with Hunter Foster and wrote the music and lyrics for the 19 original songs in this adaptation of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” which premiered in 2009. Reworking the story into a musical was the idea of Signature’s artistic director, Eric Schaeffer, and was possible because of a grant, “American Musical Voices Project: The Next Generation.”

The music is a blend of musical theater, gospel and “on the verge of rock ’n’ roll,” Conner said. He has continued to work on it and make updates as the conservatory students started to work with it. Even the name changed, from “The Hollow” back to Irving’s original title.

A cast of 16 conservatory students will bring the show to life again. It is “a homage to the original story” that makes several changes, he said. “I like to have people talking about stuff and being moved by the show.”

Danielle Grays, 21, a junior musical theater major, plays Widow Meer, the oldest woman in town when the musical takes place in 1790. She knows her position in the town and that she is a “force to be reckoned with and she wants everybody else to know it, too,” she said.

“Legend” is an intense and dark musical that is not a horror, she said. “It does have a fright factor. The music has a very haunting and intense mood. But that is not the whole show.”

When Lara Treacy, 21, a junior musical theater major, first read the play, it was different from anything she had done before, which she liked. She plays Ruth Pim, one of the women in the ensemble, who like everyone in town but Ichabod, knows where she fits in, she said.

Adding to that is “very beautiful and haunting music” that is a good interpretation of the original story, she said. “It is very well thought out and constructed and is really fun to rehearse every night.”

Embodying the superstitions and closed-minded attitudes of the townspeople is Diedrich, played by Toby O’Brien, 22, a senior acting major. The character is a former Revolutionary War soldier who is an alcoholic and highly superstitious, he said. He even warns Ichabod about the woods. “He thinks the fear of what is outside keeps them alive. He wants Ichabod not to teach the children differently.”

Irving’s story is largely from Diedrich’s perspective, and this adaptation plays with that, O’Brien said. He read the story as a child and always has been fascinated by it.

One really neat aspect of the show is that the cast doesn’t try to say there is a Headless Horseman or not, Conner said. “It’s a mystery and we aren’t trying to solve it.”

Also helping bring on the thriller are Stephen Gregory Smith, scenic designer; James Morrison, lighting designer, and Jennifer Flitton Adams, costume designer.

Information

Shenandoah Conservatory’s production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the Glaize Studio Theatre inside the Ohrstrom-Bryant Theatre. Tickets are $10, or $9 for seniors.

For more information, contact 540-665-4569 or go to conservatoryperforms.org.

— Contact Laura McFarland at lmcfarland@winchesterstar.com