The Elixir of Love and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Last Saturday, I had tickets for two different productions for families, one in San Francisco and one in San Carlos.

To me, the uncontested “crowd-pleaser” of the day was obvious. The Elixir of Love as an opera for families at the War Memorial Opera House HAD to be better than The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by the San Carlos Children’s Theatre at the Heather Elementary School of San Carlos. Hands down. Big budget versus hit-or-miss-school production.

Lo and behold, boy was I wrong. Forget the Elixir of Love! It’s definitely not Gaetano Donizetti’s best opera and my children found it boring (me too). My 5-year-old’s big question during Act II? “Mom, is that real food on stage?”

My 3-year-old was fidgety at best, downright irritating the rest of the time. The sets were stupendous but the music did not grab our heart as I hoped it would.

It might have been better had we sat closer to the front (we were second row of the Dress Tier), granted. However the action wouldn’t have been much faster.

How about offering Don Giovanni as an opera for families? Grand arias, great music, scary bad guy, saucy gals, lavish settings, ghost and devils. I’m sure it would work wonders.

But The Elixir of Love? Triple sigh.

However The Legend of Sleepy Hollow? Now, that’s the sort of performance I’d like to see more of: well written, fun, understated, well executed. We loved it.

I actually won two free tickets to the performance thanks to the website Theatre Bay Area last month. So glad I did. Written by Vera Morris, a playwright for Pioneer Drama Service, a Colorado-based plays and musicals publisher, this version of the legend of the Headless Horseman was both funny and witty.

As warned by the ushers at the door, the opening scene was scary. As the curtain opens up on the haunted graveyard of Sleepy Hollow, three specters with gleaming red eyes come on stage and seem to be on the lookout for something, moving in slow eerie steps. Set to dark and moody music, it was a chilling sight and it was no wonder some of the kids ducked into their parents’ lap.

But once that scene was over and the three ghosts of the graveyard were introduced, the rest of the play was relatively light-hearted.

As the legend goes, Ichabod Crane is the new school master of Sleepy Hollow and competes with a cheeky fellow named “Brom Bones” for the heart of Katrina Van Tassel. One night after a party at the Van Tassels, Ichabod Crane is hunted down in the night by the headless horseman, a soldier who lost his head and is still looking for it.

In this production, Ichabod Crane was played by Miss Sarah Richards, a lean blond girl whose rendition of Ichabod Crane as a scaredy cat obsessed by food was enchanting.

Mr. Nadir Jang played a solid and mischievous Brom Bones and Ariana Mitha a facetious and confident Katrina Van Tassel. My personal favorite was Mr. Colston Rienhoff, a little boy doning a fluffy grey beard who played Farmer Stuyvesant. He was irresistible.

The story had all the right elements to please: super-natural powers in motion, love and mischief, humor and wit. To all who enjoy a good story, the last performances of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow are November 21st, 22nd and 23rd.

I’ll be back for the San Carlos Children’s Theater performances. It’s only 20 minutes from my house!

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Laure Latham

Laure is an author, environmental advocate, blogger, open water swimmer and now mother. She's passionate about inspiring families to enjoy the outdoors with their children, learning to unplug and living a healthy lifestyle, giving kids life skills and exploring the world around us sharing Family Friendly, Fun Ideas for the whole family on Frog Mom.

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