Elmira Theatre Company welcomes new and seasoned actors alike to the stage this weekend for the opening of Sleepy Hollow the Musical, which promises to entertain audiences of every age.
The community theatre group produced The Lady Pirates of Captain Bree a few years ago and enjoyed it so much that director Debbie Deckert decided it was about time they put on another show with a large cast.
Large-scale musicals are too costly for the group, but this fit the bill.
“Most of these people, they’re your hairdresser and they’re your bus driver. They’re not professional actors so to do something like Sweeney Todd you need people who really know their music. Most of the folks in community theatre we’re just doing it because we like to sing. The plays that we can find like this, the music’s fairly easy, the royalty fees don’t cripple your company and we still get a lot of people on stage and they have a good time,” Deckert said.
She also chose the musical because it includes nine children in the cast, and she often hears from audiences that they’d like to see more plays with child actors.
Of the cast of 31, 10 have never been on stage before.
“They’ve sung in choirs, so it’s a big leap for them and good on them. That was another consideration. I had to keep the choreography fairly simple. It’s one thing to sing, but now you’ve got to move your feet. If you’ve never done that before it’s a bit of a challenge, so we tried to keep that fairly simple because they don’t have dance experience. But we’re having a lot of fun,” Deckert said.
Some of the children in the show actually have more show experience than the adults, and they’ve even got agents.
And not only do they have rookies, a lot of the cast are brand new to the Elmira Theatre Company stage. Deckert explains musicals often bring in new blood to communtiy theatre groups, which is necessary so they can keep growing.
Set in the post-Revolutionary War era, the play features traditional clothing, some of which they borrowed from the Cambridge Community Players who recently put on productions from the same time period.
The musical is adapted from Washington Irving’s classic ghost story. Ichabod Crane, a socially awkward schoolmaster arrives in Sleepy Hollow where he’s sure his dreams will come true when he meets the pretty Katrina Van Tassel. But in an attempt to scare him away, her jealous suitor Brom Bones plays on Ichabod’s fear of ghosts with tales of phantoms and, of course, the most famous one of all, the headless horseman.
Sleepy Hollow exists in New York and the legend there goes that there’s a headless horseman who lost his head to a cannonball during the Revolutionary War and haunts Sleepy Hollow to this day.
“There’s a little bit of thrills and chills. You can bring your children to this show. I’m waiting to see what the reaction will be for four, five, six-year olds. Will our ghost be scary for them? Will the headless horseman be too scary for them? I don’t know and I won’t know until we actually have people in the audience,” Deckert said.
Audiences should leave feeling like they’ve had fun and maybe with the thought it the back of their mind that they could do it too.
“We’d love to see more people get involved. We were saying that theatre’s the only thing you can do from the time you’re a babe in arms until you drop dead. Look at Betty White, you can still do this in your ‘90s,” Deckert said.
And despite the spooky bits, she assures potential audience members that it’s a real family show, with colour and fun.
“Elmira’s a very conservative community. When we do shows that have swearing or a little more risqué subject matter we’ve had complaints. [We were] once again looking for plays that won’t offend people. In the arts I think things should challenge you, but not everybody looks at it that way,” Deckert said.
Sleepy Hollow the Musical hits Elmira Theatre Company’s stage at their 76 Howard Ave. location from April 29 to May 14. Showtimes are 8 p.m. from Thursday to Saturday with Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m. They can be purchased at the Centre in the Square box office in Kitchener by calling 519-578-1570 or 1-800-265-8977, online at www.centre-square.com or www.elmiratheatre.com.