Gather your skirts, hitch your trousers and head yourself out to see the world premiere production of Backyard Renaissance exciting entrance into the…well, holiday… (Halloween) spirit with the musical “Tarrytown” at Diversionary's Blackbox through Dec. 17th, directed by Francis Gercke and Anthony Methvin with an eye for fun, wit and cleverness and a bit of a fright factor. It’s all so now!
Playwright Adam Wachter, book, music and lyrics, crafted together a modern day “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving, as a premise to move his classic tale forward.
You remember the story of Ichabod Crane who lived in Sleepy Hollow. He vies for the hand of the daughter of the wealthiest man in town, Katrina. His one rival Brom wants to get rid of Ichabod for wooing Katrina.
On the way home from a party at Katrina’s Ichabod is chased by a Headless Horseman (aka a Revolutionary War Soldier) gets smacked in the head, falls off his own horse and disappears. The ghost of the headless horsman rises from the dead each Halloween and looks for his head. (Short story in a nutshell)
For his updated version and a bit more detailed, Wachter is giving us a sing through with the very same characters all out of the Irving playbook.
|Bryan Banville, Tom Zohar and Kay Marian McNellen|
The three protagonists meet up in Tarrytown, NY after Ichabod Crane leaves the fast lane living of Manhattan and heads of to the quite of Tarrytown as the new music teacher at Tarrytown High. (“The Streets Of Tarrytown”)
Katrina (Kay Marian McNellen) is the high school principal’s assistant and her husband Brom (Bryan Banville) a sports enthusiast, teaches history at a nearby college.
Katrina and Ichabod form an instant bond and many dinners follow. (“My New Gay Best Friend”).
When Brom, whose marriage to Katrina has been going downhill since their wedding day (there’s a story there), finish their first dinner together (“Dinner For Three”) he pulls Ichabod aside to watch football on TV with him. Ichabod (“When He’s Near”) who knows nothing about sports agrees and swoons in his presence. Brom feels the heat.
In Irving’s “Legend”, the two men vie for Katrina’s hand. That issue of who gets whose hand is sorted out when we first meet the three. Katrina and Brom are already married and Ichabod is more interested in Brom as a potential lover than as a romantic interest for Katrina’s hand. It's all so gay and funny.
The production under the crafty direction of Francis Gercke with musical director Steven Withers, Katie Whalley Banville’s snappy choreography, Curtis Miller’s superior lighting design and Kristen Flores’ capable scenic design in the v e r y small playing black box space using scrims to highlight changes in scenery, all come together for a griping off the wall fun and fast paced (no intermission) new musical that has the potential to gather speed as it is seen by more and larger audiences.
It’s in the modern day setting that morphs and lures us into a creepy realistic and startling (“Ghost story’s terrify me”) hair raising finale that we find Ichabod in the graveyard (supposedly waiting for Brom) hearing horses galloping with silhouettes of the animals behind scrims. It did give this gal a shiver or two. It happened all so fast.
The chemistry between the three, Tom Zohar, Kay Marian McNellen and Bryan Banville is phenomenal. The music could fall into the categories of catchy, romantic and song talk. The story takes place over the course of twelve days.
Tom Zohar is at his all time personal best as the confused Ichabod “man in the middle” (“Dinner For Three”) attraction. At times he’s like the deer in the headlights confessing his lack of understanding of sports (“Four Downs To The Ten Yard Line”). Other times he bemoans his fate as a recovering addict who has fallen off the wagon.
Kay Marian McNellen is simply charming with comportment to match. Her voice catches every nuance and she convinces, amuses and pleases.
|Bryan Banville and Kay Marian McNellen|
Banville’s Brom (“On The 20th Century”, “My Fair Lady” “Animal Crackers”) has just the right balance as the macho sports guy who does in fact question his own sexuality (but quickly recovers) and still can’t quite figure out what went wrong with his marriage even as Katrina tells him over and over again.
Writer composer Adam Wachter (“Dog and Pony”) ‘New York City based composer/lyricist, music director orchestrator, arranger etc., etc., etc., has blessed our fair city to launch his first original musical thanks to BRTC Ex. Director Jessica John Gercke’s insistence on bringing Wachter’s musical back to San Diego after she got a peek of an earlier version showcased at The Old Globe.
The lyrics are word stories; clever, entertaining and I wouldn’t say you could sing them on the way out of the theatre, but catchy none-the-less.
|Bryan Banville, Tom Zohar and Kay Marian McNellen|
It’s one of the most entertaining and surprise productions/musicals of the season. Sondheim it’s not, but it does have the Sondheim touch.
And tales are told in a sleepy place called Sleepy Hollow, “a place where imagination rules and reason fails.”
I'm not in the habit of a thumbs up/down recommendation, but for this it's a sure thumbs up!
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through Dec. 17th
Organization: Backyard Renaissance Company
Production Type: Musical
Where: 4545 Park Blvd. San Diego, CA 92116
Ticket Prices: Start at $20.00
Venue: Diversionary’s Black Box Theatre
Photo: Studio B Photo Productions