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'Sleepy Hollow' Gets a Steampunk Retelling at Oceanside Theatre

by Cassiopeia Guthrie, October 7, 2023

American author Washington Irving first wrote 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow' in 1820, a story which would maintain its popularity around Halloween each year, primarily due to the idea that the eerie horseman was bearing, rather than a head on his shoulders, a pumpkin atop his saddle. Oceanside Theatre Company and local writer Heather Megill have taken it upon themselves to recreate the spooky story in a joint youth/adult production, playing through October 29 at the Sunshine Brooks Theater.

The steampunk cast surrounds the white woman.
Cast of 'Welcome to Sleepy Hollow.' Photo credit Esteban Marin.

Under the direction of Kandace Crystal and music direction of Marc Akiyama, Welcome to Sleepy Hollow is a simple, eerie, and family-welcoming production. The story, reframed as a romance between clever schoolteacher Ichabod Crane and bright only child Katrina Van Tassel, bears a number of similarities to the source text, while offering a more generous description of Crane's character (rather than seeking Katrina's wealth, he finds himself enraptured by her intelligence), and more agency for its female lead, along with a significantly more developed back story for the Woman in White, a supernatural being rumored to be seen around Sleepy Hollow.

The premise is simple: Ichabod arrives, develops reciprocated feelings for/with Katrina, she does her best to push aside the romantic attentions of pretentious Brom Bones, and ultimately the duo find themselves on a moonlit night in the presence of the supernatural.

The young cast members surround Katrina, who stands atop a bench with her arms stretched widely.
Amy Hypnarowski and youth cast in 'Welcome to Sleepy Hollow.' Photo credit Esteban Marin.

Crystal mentions in the program notes that she values collaboration and autonomy in her productions; it is easy to see that a tremendous value of this production is the opportunity for all involved to work in tandem to tell a story. What the production lacks in polish, it makes up for in spirit... the slightly silly, steampunk kind. Eleven adults work integrally with six youth performers, including one who also doubles as the show's projection designer (Ethan Reba). Each ensemble scene features both adults and youth blended together and are among the best in the show. I found myself thinking that this is such a great opportunity for these young people to have a hand in co-creating a production with their more seasoned adult peers. I am sure that they will remember the experience fondly as one marked by creativity.

The cast for Welcome to Sleepy Hollow, led by Dennis Peters (Ichabod Crane) and Amy Hypnarowski (Katrina), also includes Timothy Benson, Jordan Fan, Michelle Lockow Cohen, Bob Himlin, Matthew Javier, Lorelei Krone, Paul Morgavo, Caroline Nelms, Amanda Pruett, Jordyn Brown, Sabina Kulenovic, Samantha Peters, Ethan Ramos, Ethan Reba, and Mia Ukegawa. The show also features an onstage band: Marc Akiyama, Michelle Gray, John Nettles, Cadence Sabo, Dan Sankey, and Jacob Thompson. In addition to Crystal and Akiyama, production team for the show includes playwright/composer Heather Megill (costume designer), Kevin "Blax" Burroughs (lighting designer), Marc Caro (choregrapher), Alyssa Kane (scenic designer, and Ted Leib (sound designer/producer).

Katrina and Ichabod declare their love for one another.
Amy Hypnarowski and Dennis Peters in 'Welcome to Sleepy Hollow.' Photo credit Esteban Marin

As we left the theatre and headed home, my kids (who I brought along to opening night) shared their thoughts about the sassy second act opening number and the steampunk costumes, and I found myself reflecting back on some of their own youth/adult theatre experiences and the wonderful things that they learned that they can apply to the world around them as a result.

A night at the theatre that is family-oriented, spooky and steampunk themed, and based on a classic short story? For this teacher/mom/critic, visiting Oceanside Theatre Company with the family seemed just the right way to kick off the month of October. I'm sure the kids and adults on stage embracing the season will likewise appreciate the audience's applause and the chance to share a story beloved by so many.

Welcome to Sleepy Hollow runs through October 29 at Oceanside Theatre Company.


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