Merrily we roll along!

Robin Hood

Book, music and lyrics by Mark Sarto
Directed by Laura Stevens
Musical direction by Timothy O'Brien
Manhattan Children’s Theatre
380 Broadway, 4th fl.
Non-union production (closes Dec. 19)
Review by Angie Moore

Under Laura Stevens’s excellent direction, the talented and delightful cast made this 65 minutes seem much less with their adept, fun-filled performances and nimble pacing. The cast was uniformly good, with a few standouts -- such as Dewberry, played by J.T. Taylor, who hammed it up just fine without going over the top, and reveled in many well-placed moments of physical comedy and pratfalls. Also, Little John, played by his namesake John K. Kucher. From the time of his entrance, he commanded the stage with his ample girth and steady, booming voice. Wisely, Stevens placed him upstage on his first entry, which allowed for maximum effect, especially during his skilled combat exchange with Robin Hood (the wonderful and charmingly heroic Chris Alonzo). Virginia Kull’s Maid Marian was lovely and winning, and beautifully attired in a pastel blue and white gown throughout. To her credit, she made the most of her few opportunities to show backbone against the obnoxious Sheriff, played by B.J. Thorne. As Sheriff, Thorne could have gone further with the sliminess and villainy, but was entertaining nonetheless in a role he clearly relished. Other special mentions go to Friar Tuck (Joe Sevier), who gave a virile, soldierly portrayal of the good-humored outlaw holy man, and King Richard (Bill Corry), who in several roles gave turns that were grounded, comedic and animated. Solid support was generously forthcoming from the lesser characters in the piece, who doubled as townspeople, forest folk, and tournament archers in a highly amusing bulls-eye contest. Stevens’s spot-on direction allowed the performers to use the space to the full, with plenty of moments for them to play out to the overwhelmingly under-five crowd. The cast worked well together, with equal energy throughout and a strong sense of ensemble. Warm moments occurred with the chemistry between Hood and his Merrie Men, Friar Tuck and Will (James Stover), as well as between Hood and Marian, when he tells her about his mother and reveals his real name to her.

Each actor gently entered the beautiful set, which was intelligently designed by Aaron Mastin and Christie Phillips. It transformed easily from scenes depicting the town square of Nottingham, to the Forest of Sherwood, to Maid Marian’s bedroom. The tonal and light colors complemented Staci Shember’s medieval costumes to perfection, which were detailed and allowed for ease of moment for the actors during their dance sequences, fights, and costume changes. (Incidentally, no program credit was listed for choreography or fight.) Mary Malmquist’s props included wooden swords and archers’ bows, and even a brown, stuffed rabbit! All worked well, and were deftly handled by the actors. Mark Sarto and Timothy O’Brien’s musical creations also worked -- contemporary pop tunes against a medieval backdrop. They enhanced the sense of gaiety that is crucial in a piece like this, especially the '50s’ doo-wop style rendition by Marian and her waiting women in her room, which was a particularly enjoyable few minutes. Brian Patrick Byrne’s careful lighting kept all well illuminated, and wisely avoided trying to provide "atmosphere."

The Britified accents used at times by the cast were not necessary, as diction and speech were clear and easily understood. All were in fine singing voice, projecting suitably to avoid being drowned out by the finger-clicking percussion music, and the actors’ joy at performing these musical numbers showed. Kudos also to each for endowing their characters with some added depth, therefore preventing them from being mere "stock" characters.

Overall a very good production, with a happy, hopeful and accessible take on good overcoming evil. Always welcome in these most uncertain of times. A jolly good show for all kids who want something fun to which to bring their parents.

With Watson Heintz and Erin Leigh Schmoyer.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

Return to Volume Eleven, Number Twelve Index

Return to Volume Eleven Index

Return to Home Page

Copyright 2004 xxx