Directed by Kevin Herren
Distributed by Macabre Mansion
Few early American tales can claim to be as enduring as Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. Published in 1820, Irving’s short story has been adapted countless times to stage and screen, most notably with Disney’s animated version and Tim Burton’s unfaithful (yet still fun) horror-tinged Johnny Depp vehicle. “Hollow” has even been adapted several times as an audio book. And now we have a fully produced audio drama from horror radio troupe Macabre Mansion, complete with music and featuring several voice actors essaying the various characters that populate the story.
Taking place in late 18th century Tarrytown, New York, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” concerns Ichabod Crane, a newly-arrived schoolmaster who sets his sights on young Katrina Van Tassel. Or rather, he sets his sights on her father’s money and land. Hoping to woo and marry his way into the elder Van Tassel’s wealth, Crane quickly sets about charming the young lady. In doing so, he raises the ire of the local tough guy, Brom “Bones” Van Brunt, who is smitten with Katrina himself.
This not-quite-love triangle meets one night during the Van Tassel family’s large harvest feast. Crane hopes to propose to the all too charmed Katrina but is soon interrupted by Brom’s spooky tales of ghosts and the “Headless Horseman”, a decapitated rider said to haunt the hills and roads of their small village. Unnerved, Crane leaves the party and ventures home, only to find himself face to face with a terrifying sight that is either a living legend or a masterful prank from an angry would-be suitor.
Macabre Mansion’s audio drama is a fine take on the tale, with fun vocal performances, good music, and well-produced sound effects. This adaptation is quite faithful, too, with the narration and dialogue taken directly from Irving’s text with few changes. Running at about an hour, this audio drama should evoke feelings of nostalgia for the classic radio plays of yesteryear, even for those not old enough to have witnessed that type of entertainment firsthand.
While some of the acting does occasionally suffer from being overly self-modulated, the performers’ takes on their characters are still very enjoyable. Daniel Roebuck makes for a first-rate narrator, and scripter Jim O’Rear’s Ichabod Crane is fantastic. This reviewer appreciated the fact that this adaptation remembered to keep Crane a supercilious, unctuous little shit who is not really the story’s hero at all (indeed, there are practically no “good people” to be found here). So many versions of this story portray Crane as a cowardly hero or nebbishy romantic, while Irving’s character was little more than a shallow gold digger.
Perhaps the only hiccup (other than the aforementioned performance issues) is the story’s climax. While the bulk of the drama is enjoyable, the finale fails to be as gripping as one would imagine it should be. Still, it’s an enjoyable presentation of a classic tale and is well worth seeking out.
So if you’re looking for a few chills to complement the upcoming holiday cheer, or even if you want to enjoy a classic tale told in a throwback manner, you could do far worse than giving “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” a listen.