It’s hard to keep a good legend down, and like other heroes Robin Hood is always ready for his return to pop culture. Not that he really ever truly left, having been portrayed in movies and on stage for the last 80 years, and in stories for longer than that. The new work by Ken Ludwig commissioned by the Old Globe “Robin Hood” proves that it was time for yet another fun frolic through the forest with Robin and his band of Merry Men!
Just like Batman or Spiderman, most everyone knows Robin Hood’s back story; he’s a noble who decided to stand up for those who couldn’t stand up for themselves when King Richard leaves for the Crusades and leaves his brother, the dastardly Prince John in charge. With the help of Sir Guy and the Sheriff of Nottingham, Prince John abuses his power and soon Robin has become an outlaw as he robs from the rich to gives to the poor.
As our master of ceremonies and narrator Friar Tuck sets the tone for the show with a sense of energy, delight, and fun. Played with a serious sense of fun by Andy Grotelueschen, Tuck keeps everything moving along, and his audience interaction keeps everything lighthearted.
Daniel Reece is our charming rogue Robin, the noble who matures from a frat boy noble to a social crusader willing to give up his lands and holdings to take care of the people until King Richard returns. Reece keeps him delightfully mischievous, and amusingly sure he is smarter than anyone in the room.
Meredith Garretson’s Maid Marion is not the damsel in distress she has been in the past, and is more a smart and capable fighter (and better archer than Robin). She is not afraid to play the diplomat with her royal Uncle Prince John, or contemplate marriage to Sir Guy as a political match, but there is no doubt she is choosing these actions to help people on her own terms, and no one else’s. (Thanks to a gorgeous wig, when grown up Marian arrived I almost yelled “She’s a grown up Merida!” which made me so happy. But I digress)
Robin’s merry men (and woman) are rounded out by Suzelle Palacios as the spirited Doerwynn and Paul Whitty as the mandolin playing Little John. Both steal the show with a funny and sweet scene in the second act that plays with scenic perspective.
Our bad guys are comprised of Michael Boatman, as the decadent Prince John who can’t stop creating amazing quotes for his Sheriff to jot down for his theatrical works later (so I guess Shakespeare is really quoting him 400 years later). Manoel Feliciano is the stern and exasperated Sir Guy; while Kevin Cahoon is terrifically funny as the faint-hearted fighter Sheriff of Nottingham. You may recognize him from stealing all of the scenes he was in as Boyette in “Love’s Labour’s Lost” at the Globe last summer.
The costumes by San Diego native and double Tony winner Gregg Barnes are gorgeous and not to be missed. They are so richly textured and colored that it’s a surprise that Robin hasn’t tried to steal those as well. Also, it proves that we should all be wearing more corsets, capes, and clever hats.
The set is inventive and interactive, with vines and ropes decorating the entire theatre, the better to allow the cast to drop in from the top. The use of some crates, plates, and doors in the floor allow for quick scene changes, and the cast use the ability to play with heights, and perspective in fun ways.
The show takes a modern musical cue with some contemporary versions of pop and folk music; a clever move that keeps the tone and energy for the audience throughout the show and even when the lights are up.
Directed by Jessica Stone, she keeps the focus on the upbeat energy, and a sense play, that serves this material well. This allows the audience to become a part of this merry band (a fact that the cast plays up encouraging the audience to participate.)
Overall, ROBIN HOOD! at The Old Globe proves that the Legend of Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest is as alive and ever.
Playing through September 3rd in Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, for show times and ticket information go to www.theoldgloe.org