While the work explores modern issues, particularly fear and how it may be used to create and retain power, we're still in 1790, in the secluded community of Sleepy Hollow, New York. Residents there are still terrorized by the specter of a headless horseman who rides through the night on a mighty black stallion, dispatching those who aren't "right with God." Foster makes it clear, though, that both the power and the paranoia these villagers experienced and exploited are still very much with us over two hundred years later.
The Hollow shares some of the ambiance of Conner's previous musical, Nevermore, but here, some of the lyrics are unadorned, while others blossom into an eerie dimension, sometimes carried by wafts of classical-sounding music. The effect is almost unremittingly hypnotic.
Among the score's standouts are "Legend," which begins as a melodic, measured ballad and builds to a robust anthem; "Perhaps," which is an incisive voyage through the power of imagination, utilizing repeated musical themes, call-and-response vocalizations, and dynamic energy; and "Goodnight Prayer," which wrings vibrant emotion from a simple rendering of "The Lord's Prayer" that is both startling and soothing.
The entire cast -- many of whom do double duty in both shows -- cannot be faulted, starting with Sam Ludwig as schoolteacher Ichabod Crane, Whitney Bashor as lovely, sheltered Katrina Van Tassel, and talented youngster Noah Chiet as young Pieter. Evan Casey is smooth and quietly menacing as Brom Van Brunt, bristling with unyielding, fundamentalist rectitude that obscures his demons, while Harry A. Winter is enjoyable as Katrina's forward-thinking father, Baltus Van Tassel.
Director Matthew Gardiner harnesses his cast's energies, allowing them a measured, deliberate energy at first that suggests there is vast power being held at bay. When the force is finally released, it explodes in psychological violence. Yes, The Hollow is a horror show, but it's the horrors found within us which do the scaring here, not monsters or special effects.