The Widow’s Broom


Children’s Ballet In Two Acts


    It is All Hallows Eve, the witches’ favorite night of the year.  Within their hilltop hideaway, they move with their brooms round a steaming cauldron.  Their dance complete, they fly off into the autumn sky.  As they soar above the moonlit landscape, the witch Pingrel finds her broom growing weaker and weaker.  Finally, it can no longer hold her aloft.  She and the Broom tumble to the earth.

    The next day, Pingrel is discovered by the Widow Minna Shaw, and her son, Owen, as they toil in the vegetable garden beside their cottage.  The kind-hearted Widow helps Pingrel into the cottage.  Owen, frightened by the witch, stays behind and discovers the Broom.

Inside the cottage, where the witch has slept all day long, Minna sweeps the floor with her ordinary broom.  Owen brings the witch’s Broom to his mother.  She compares the two, which look the same, and places the witch’s Broom in the closet.

    Night falls.  Minna Shaw and her son retire.  As they sleep, the witch arises.  She discovers the Widow’s ordinary broom.  She picks it up, believing it to be her own worn out broom, incapable of flight or any other magic.  She tosses it aside impatiently, and exits, setting off for her hilltop home.

After she leaves, the magic Broom emerges from the closet.  It begins sweeping the floor and awakens Owen.  He plays with the Broom and they, in turn, awaken the Widow.  The Broom would like to dance with Minna, but she demands that it go back into the closet.

    The Widow keeps her distance from the Broom, but she becomes less resistant to its presence as the Broom helps with the household chores around the Widow’s cottage.  The women who see the Broom agree that it is a wonderful thing for Minna to have, but the men are very suspicious.

    When the opportunity occurs, the Spivey children torment the Broom as it goes about its chores.  The Broom defends itself, injuring and frightening the children.  The Spiveys and other neighbors march to the Widow’s cottage, demanding that she give up the Broom.  She does so, giving them the Broom from her closet, convincing them that it is motionless because it is asleep.

    The angry group takes the Broom into the forest and burns it.  The Spiveys are gleeful that they have gotten rid of the Broom, but their celebration is interrupted when a ghost of the Broom appears, now entirely white and yielding a large axe.

    The Spiveys are so frightened by this apparition and by the deadly possibility that it will hunt them down, that they pack their worldly belongings and move away.

    In the final scene, the white Broom joins the Widow.  She wipes the paint from its face.  He is not a ghost at all, but simply painted white by the Widow, who believed a ghostly broom could drive her nosey and vile neighbors away.  Now, in the peace and solitude surrounding her cottage home, she at last accepts the Broom’s invitation to dance.

Synopsis written by Chris Van Allsburg, October 2004

See here for InstrumentationWB_Instrumentation.html

Read the Providence Journal review HERE