Once again, Imagination Stage turns an ages-old classic into something modern and relatable for both kids and adults. In this fine adaptation of the story of Robin Hood by Greg Banks, director Janet Stanford reminds us that the Merry Men weren’t originally merry – they were homeless. Living the outlaw life in Sherwood Forest in the Middle Ages turns out to be not much different than living life on the streets circa 2018.
If that sounds like a downer, it’s not: just a subtle comparison at the beginning of the show, as modern ragtag down-and-outers huddle around a metal barrel fire, warming their hands. The action quickly shifts to medieval England, Robin Hood and his tales, but the point’s been made, and it won’t be lost on even the youngest in the audience. For those of us who wish our children to be aware of the economic hardships in our country, it’s a quick lesson: the poor aren’t just in fairy tales.
But back to Robin Hood and his swashbuckling friends. Wearing clever, inventive costumes (costume designer Kendra Rai) that change subtly when the timeline changes, hoodies become hooded capes and the colors of brown and green evoke the forest. The Sheriff of Nottingham (Michael Glenn) sports a wonderful black ensemble, with a red and black pointy hat, as befits his wickedness. Glenn is actually quite charming as the moustache-twirling villain, and has some of the funniest lines in the play. Indeed, the afternoon I saw the show, one youngster in the audience admonished him directly, and Glenn replied in kind, cracking everyone up. It’s good to see a bad guy having such a good time being bad.
Christopher Dinolfo cuts a handsome figure as Robin Hood and has a ballet dancer’s grace as he fences, climbs an enormous tree, and fights on a tiny bridge with Little John. And the scene where he’s disguised as a lovely blonde maiden is one of the best in the show- he’s a hoot whilst simpering, fluttering his eyelashes, and using an over-the-top falsetto to fool the Sheriff. And of course that silly Sheriff falls for it.
closes May 20, 2018
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The rest of the cast is uniformly excellent. Alina Collins Maldonado has by far the most to do- as Much, Maid Marion, and the first narrator, she crafts each character to stand out, although the Cockney accent of her young boy Much comes and goes at times. As Little John, Jason B. McIntosh, whose deep basso voice gives him gravitas, has a wonderful fight scene with Robin Hood.
There’s a great deal of music in the show, supplied by Jon Jon Johnson (as Friar Tuck and others) on plastic bucket drums and violin and by Nick DePinto (who also plays Greedy Prince John) on guitar. Director Janet Stanford utilizes many simple effects- clappers for hoofbeats, a twanging string for an arrow zinging through the air, and actors’ raspberry ‘Thwap!’ as it comically hits its target.
The show is like a cartoon come to life at times, and even more so when the evil Prince John rolls in, in a bathtub filled with gold coins filched from his subjects. DePinto is a supercilious, highfalutin prince, in no way concerned with his subjects.
And last but not least: the set (scenic designer James Fouchard.) Goodness gracious me, is it impressive. For those who think children’s theatre makes do with cardboard sets and poorly painted backdrops, come on by and take a gander at Fouchard’s massive, magnificent tree, complete with climbing apparatus and second-story limbs that support an actor’s weight. And if that’s not enough to knock your socks off, there’s even a mini stone castle, with partial battlements, a balcony, and winding steps. Kids will want to live on that set- I know I do.
At an hour and a half with a fifteen minute intermission, it’s a bit overlong for the teenyweenies- the suggested age range for this show is 4+. It does drag a bit towards the end, in an effort to fit in as many of the stories as possible. And it must be said, it takes a slightly dark turn with Robin’s final fate left unanswered and a swift return to the modern homeless folks huddled around that fiery barrel. It’s oddly moving, and more than a little sniffly.
A good story, well told, and with something to think about after the show is over.
Robin Hood by Greg Banks, Directed by Janet Stanford; Cast: Christopher Dinolfo (Robin Hood); Michael Glenn (Sheriff of Nottingham, Ensemble); Alina Collins Maldonado (Much, Maid Marian, Ensemble); Jon Jon Johnson (Friar Tuck, Ensemble); Jason B McIntosh (Little John, Will Scarlett, Ensemble); Nick DePinto (King John, Guitarist, Ensemble) Fight & Movement Choreographers: Kelly and Mollye Maxner; Costumes, Kendra Rai; Scenic Design, James Fouchard; Lighting Design; Zac Gilbert; Sound Design, Justin Schmitz; Props Designer, Matthew Aldwin McGee; Stage Manager, Ellen Houseknecht . Produced by Imagination Stage. Reviewed by Jill Kyle-Keith.