Hart House Theatre opened its production of Robin Hood: The Legendary Musical Comedy on Friday, January 11, 2013 for a two week run. The story of the noble anti-hero robbing the rich to reward the poor could have no more relevancy than it does today. Adapted from the Shakespeare by the Sea, Halifax work, this musical rom-com features writing is generally sharp writing and witty with cheeky cultural references including, “What’chu talkin’ bout, Will” and allusions to the widely reported “one per cent” although there are a few occasions when the dialogue is predictable or perhaps the delivery is flat. The actors frequently break the fourth wall and rather charmingly when they announce that it would be a good time for an intermission. With an original score by Kieren MacMillan and Jeremy Hutton, Robin Hood does strike a chord with some exceptional musical numbers including “Poverty,” a catchy gospel tune poking fun at Christian doctrine led by Benjamin Kyte as Friar Tuck with rich, robust harmonies from the chorus/poor people of England. Unfortunately, this was Kyte’s only solo performance, which left me wanting more of that soulful baritone voice. A seven-member orchestra elevated these songs into a full-blown musical experience.
Another standout voice belonged to Kelly McCormack. McCormack burst onto the stage with a powerhouse soprano in “I’m So Lonely,” which displayed her complete control in the higher octaves. She also brought sass and confidence to her character, Will Scarlet. William Foley delivered a strong, versatile performance with a solid grasp of comedy as the bumbling Sheriff of Nottingham. Simon Rainville as the one-of-these-men-is-not-like-the-other Sven was beguilingly timid in his steal-the-moment scenes.
The casting of Daniel James as the self-congratulatory, self-adoring, Robin Hood signalled the farcical aspect of this production. James engaged the audience with a “wink-wink” type of interaction and showcased a decidedly strong singing voice.
Jeremy Hutton’s fight choreography was dashing, authentic and skilfully executed, particularly in the final scenes. Scott Penner’s dimly-lit set, which featured swinging lanterns and a draped netting backstage highlighted the theme of corruption and poverty.
Director Jesse MacLean’s pacing during the second act suffered somewhat and left me wondering whether at least one scene could have been omitted. Overall, however, the production was glorious, often laugh-out-loud hilarious and inspired.
Robin Hood: The Legendary Musical Comedy, Hart House Theatre, 7 Hart House Circle, runs from January 11 to 26, 2013. Tickets are Adults $25, Students and Seniors $15, $10 Student tickets every Wednesday.