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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021 1 week ago

Windermere Prep Theater conjures eerie imagery with ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’

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The Hessian rides again with a visually creative production
by: Jim Carchidi Associate Editor

The ghostly tales of Washington Irving’s classic short story were celebrated as Windermere Prep presented “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” Oct. 7 to 9. The beloved drama centers on the fate of the awkward, yet endearing, schoolmaster, Ichabod Crane, but other mysteries are part of the telling.

Theater Director BambiEllen Fadoul came across the script, which sticks close to the original story, while planning the new performance season. 

Windermere Prep Theater students form a conceptual vision of The Headless Horseman with sticks and an LED ball.

“The monologues are so very long,” she said. “A really long time for a student to speak but also for the audience to listen. I wanted to support the students, but in a manner (that) the audience is also going to be entertained.”

A lifelong performer specializing in musical theater, Fadoul previously directed at Windermere High School, where she led productions including “The Pajama Game,” “Chicago” and “Footloose.” She admitted to being a little out of her comfort zone with this play, but enhancing the production value became a group effort, which transformed the short story into a pageant of gothic enchantments.

A conceptualized horseman, created by performers moving wooden sticks and a glowing LED orb, makes an appearance during the opening sequence. The tale of a woman who perished while seeking shelter from a snowstorm is accompanied by a dancer in white, gliding through a shadowy forest scene. The story of a Hessian trooper whose head was removed by a cannonball is re-enacted with a Revolutionary War battle scene. And the cautionary tale of a hapless traveler’s encounter with The Headless Horseman is portrayed with shadow puppets.

“That was totally inspired by ‘Dealthly Hallows,’” said Fadoul of the puppet sequence, loosely based on visual effects seen in the seventh “Harry Potter” film.

Brom Bones, played by Michael Crocetti, and Katrina Van Tassel, played by Andrea Matos Devesa, meet Ichabod Crane, played by Anderson Davies.

Fadoul eagerly extends credit behind the scenes to Technical Theater Supervisor Nick Drowse, who built the menacing set designs, and Lighting Designer Jorn Neilson, who arranged LED sequences for ghost stories.

Cast members had the option of performing without masks but were able to don their face coverings when not at center stage. According to Fadoul, the option was a bonus for this production. 

“It’s melodrama; considering we just spent an entire year in masks, the students needed to start exploring facial expressions again,” she said. 

But expression was not limited to drama. Modern dance moves — including Ichabod Crane actor Anderson Davies’ performance of The Worm, during a party scene — and more than a few snarky comments and side-eye glances, injected personality and comedic moments. 

“I give (the students) the basics and the framework, and they really know how to take that and run and create something magical,” Fadoul said.

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Jim Carchidi is an associate editor for the West Orange Times & Observer, Southwest Orange Observer and OrangeObserver.com. He has more than two decades of journalism experience in Central Florida, including positions at the Orlando Sentinel and the Orlando Business Journal. He holds a...

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