Adam Wachter's original musical, Tarrytown, a contemporary story loosely based on Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," is a funny, tuneful, and intense musical drama in 90 minutes for three singing actors.
Its world premiere production opened at the Backyard Renaissance theatre company in San Diego, California, on November 30, 2017. It was nominated for five 2017 San Diego Theatre Critics' Circle Craig Noel Awards and won "Best New Musical." Scroll down for photos from that production and highlights from the unanimously excellent reviews.
The San Diego Union Tribune
In the new musical “Tarrytown,” people lose their heads over love, friendship and the sometimes befuddling distinctions between the two.
If that seems an unlikely pedigree for a smart, contemporary romantic musical, Wachter makes it work pretty wonderfully, with a lyrical and gracefully flowing score, often witty lyrics and a savvy way of updating Irving’s characters without shoehorning them into some contrived-feeling story.
This is an outsize accomplishment for the upstart company, and a real coup to give birth to such a promising piece by Wachter, a seasoned New York arranger-orchestrator and more who is debuting his first original musical.
Wachter’s songwriting and storytelling pop with invention.
Wachter has a good ear for the unexpected rhyme.
Wachter also weaves in beautiful vocal counterpoint, and musical director/pianist Steven Withers ably captures the delicate, sometimes Sondheim-esque vibe of Wachter’s score, which would be worthy of full orchestration.
The Times of San Diego
FULL REVIEW: "The Headless Horseman Rides Again in ‘Tarrytown’ at Backyard Renaissance" by Pat Launer
Two spooky elements conflate in the world premiere musical “Tarrytown,” Halloween and the Headless Horseman.
Riffing on Washington Irving’s 1820 short story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” Adam Wachter, who created the book, music and lyrics, sets his piece in the same locale — Tarrytown, NY, about an hour north of Manhattan — but in the current day instead of 1790.
Wachter has woven all kinds of fun and snarky humor into his very clever lyrics, which often fly by at a breakneck pace. It’s a thrilling and chilling 90-minute romp, with more songs than dialogue, and a number of delectable contrapuntal trios.
The musical is more than just the re-configuration of a legendary ghost story that seems to be rooted in our collective consciousness. It’s a consideration of unfulfilled dreams, and how that results in compromise, disappointment, inertia, bitterness — even violence.
Kudos to Wachter (this is the first, very promising, original musical for the New York-based orchestrator/arranger/musician/composer), and to the team at Backyard Renaissance. They’ve made the very most of a small musical and a small space.
San Diego Gay & Lesbian News
FULL REVIEW: "Theater Review: Tarrytown" by Jean Lowerison
Washington Irving’s well-known Halloween story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” gets a fetching musical update – and amusing twists – in Backyard Renaissance Theatre’s world premiere of Adam Wachter’s “Tarrytown,” playing through Dec. 17 in Diversionary’s Black Box Theatre.
You remember the Halloween story about the Revolutionary War soldier who loses his head (literally) and spends eternity as the Headless Horseman riding around in search of his (or someone else’s) head? He’s still here, along with more contemporary psychological bugaboos like choices made and regretted and longing for that right human connection.
The rest of the play is a delicate and often delightful psychological 90-minute pas de trois, as these three characters try to work out their attraction (or is it just friendship?), longing, dreams, and disappointments.
Wachter’s lyrics have a definite Sondheim feel – lots of words, sung quickly in stream-of-consciousness style, but fortunately with better melodies than Sondheim typically produces.
Bravo to Backyard Renaissance Theatre’s executive director Jessica John, who went to a showcase of “Tarrytown” while Wachter was in town working at the Old Globe, and immediately decided to present a full production. Good move.
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.
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.
All three are excellent singers, finding the nuance and the humor in these clever lyrics. Composed by Adam Wachter, the music is wry, witty, and charming; full of energy, unexpected rhymes, and some beautiful vocal counterpoints.
Music Director and pianist Steven Withers brings gorgeous accompaniment in this sometimes complicated but graceful and detailed score.
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.
FULL REVIEW: "Regional Reviews: San Diego" by Bill Eadie
Adam Wachter is a New York City-based theatre musician. He's written a charming and spooky chamber musical named Tarrytown, and he's given the world premiere to a small San Diego troupe called Backyard Renaissance Theatre Company.
The story seems ordinary but au courant, the songs plentiful and melodic, and the lyrics inspired to the level of tour de force. Mr. Wachter especially excels at complex rhythms and unexpected rhymes. In Katrina's song, "My New Gay Best Friend," for example, he rhymes "Manhattan" with "gratin," "dinner" with "thinner," and "antsy" with "fancy," all in the same verse.
Tarrytown opened without a great deal of fanfare but proves itself to rival in quality the several new musicals that have been staged in San Diego this year. It closes this weekend, so hurry if you want to see it.
San Diego Story
FULL REVIEW: "Keeping the Halloween Spirit Alive" by David Dixon
Nothing says holiday-season counter-programming like having a Halloween musical in December. October 31 plays a very important role throughout Backyard Renaissance Theatre Company’s world premiere of Tarrytown. Adam Wachter’s script is a modern-day adaptation of Washington Irving’s famous short story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”
Tarrytown features a similar structure to Irving’s classic plot. Just as in the original, Wachter starts off the evening with scenarios that aren’t out of the ordinary. He makes audiences care about each individual before taking the tale into stranger territory.
Wachter’s narrative is faithful to the spirit of the original plot, and there aren’t any explicit references to a murderously violent headless horseman until past the halfway point of the 90-minute runtime. That’s not a distraction, because one of the best things about the new show are the current day versions of the central characters.
The positive qualities of Wachter’s writing and score make Tarrytown worth recommending. His take on “Sleepy Hollow” features intelligent melodies and a good sense of humor. Wachter brings an enjoyably fresh perspective to a timelessly creepy classic. It’ll make you want to count down the days until next Halloween.
San Diego CityBeat
On the surface, Adam Wachter’s one-act musical Tarrytown seems like another variation on the eternal triangle, in this case an insecure gay man (Tom Zohar) and an unhappily married couple (Kay Marian McNellen and Bryan Banville) all residing in rural Tarrytown, N.Y. But in fact Tarrytown is a deft take on Washington Irving’s famous “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” That narrative device and a thoughtful musical score make this world premiere presented by Backyard Renaissance Theatre Company so promising.
Wachter’s lyrics are by and large clever and insightful in what they posit about finding love and self in a scary world. The cast directed by Francis Gercke and Anthony Methvin enjoys definite chemistry in very tight confines, and Zohar is an expressive vocalist whose Ichabod Crane (just one of the three Irving characters referenced in this piece) is a sensitive and vulnerable protagonist.