TARRYTOWN is a modern update for a classic folktale

TARRYTOWN, a world premiere musical shows that you never know what will cause you to lose your head, in this clever and entertaining musical about love, friendship, and relationships. Presented by the Backyard Renaissance Theatre Company is playing through Sunday, December 17th at the Diversionary Black Box Theatre.

Bryan Banville, Tom Zohar and Kay McNellen (from left) in Backyard Renaissance Theatre’s “Tarrytown.” (Studio B Photo Productions)

Inspired by Washington Irving’s famous folktale “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, this show updates the competition between Ichabond and Brom over the heart and attention of Katrina.

In this case Ichabod (Tom Zohar) is the new musical teacher in town, having run from his problems in New York and looking for a new start in Tarrytown (site of the historical Sleepy Hollow we find out later).  Katrina (Kay McNellen) is the principal’s assistant at the same school and is deliriously excited to have a “new gay best friend” in Ichabod.  She invites him over to her house for a welcome dinner with her and her husband, community college history professor Brom (Bryan Banville).

Katrina and Brom’s marriage has hit a rough patch, and as Ichabod spends more time with them he starts to feel drawn to Brom as Katrina feels the need for more space away from her husband.

The cast is delightful, with a great chemistry, a fun sense of quirkiness, and having fun with the slow burn tension as the story turns more chilling.

McNellen as Katrina is charmingly, if hilariously manic, as a woman who is trying to find some excitement in a life she is feeling increasingly trapped in.

Banville as Brom is charismatic as a history lover who is also not above using more gruesome historical tales to unnerve Ichabod who he sees as an opponent for his wife’s affections.

Zohar as Ichabod is wonderfully befuddled and neurotic as he tries to navigate this relationship dynamic, while being more true to himself and staying away from the tempting and destructive habits in which he indulged in New York.

All three are excellent singers, finding the nuance and the humor in these clever lyrics.  Composed by Adam Watcher, the music is wry, witty, and charming; full of energy, unexpected rhymes, and some beautiful vocal counterpoints.

It is almost entirely sung through, and is full of songs ranging from Ichabod’s marvel at all that his new town offers (mail carriers with mullets, historical plaques on buildings, and a respite from the craziness of New York) to a song where Brom explains football to Ichabod. (There’s even a lyric mentioning pass interference which is something I debate every time I watch a game.  But I digress…)

Music Director and pianist Steven Withers brings gorgeous accompaniment in this sometimes complicated but graceful and detailed score.

The theatre is configured into a long and shallow proscenium space, but they make the most of the space with an effective and versatile set by Kristen Flores, which is enhanced by Curtis Mueller’s lighting and the use of  silhouettes are especially effective.

Directed by Francis Gercke and Anthony Methvin this show keeps a tight pace, and the tension is finely tuned as the show sprints towards the end of its 90 minute one act.

The show could use a bit of tweaking to make it feel a bit more complete. The shift into the third act needs a bit more finesse as it transitions into the final and more chilling tone.  A little more backstory on what Katrina and Brom ever saw in each other in the first place and what is currently missing may give them a bit more depth to make their actions make sense. The passing few sentences don’t give enough weight for their behaviors and motivations.

Just like in the original folktale upon which it’s based, the ending is open to interpretation here. Was the Headless Horseman really just Brom in disguise?  Or did Ichabod, who was so scared of ghost stories and things that go bump in the night, actually get spirited away by supernatural means?  While it can feel unresolved as an ending to some, it’s a nice echo to the source material.

TARRYTOWN by the Backyard Renaissance Theatre Company is paying through Sunday, December 17th at the Diversionary Black Box Theatre.  For show time and ticket information go to www.backyardrenaissance.com

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