The Merry Boys and Girls of First Stage’s ‘Robin Hood’
Robin Hood and his band of merry men (and merry women, too!) are getting in plenty of laughs along with the requisite swashbuckling, bravery and heroism in this world premiere at Milwaukee’s premier company with roles for children. And while the good guys do battle with the bad guys in this production, the audience is the big winner.
First Stage’s associate artistic director John Maclay and veteran actor-director Joe Foust have adapted this classic tale into a zany mix of history and satire with an overarching dose of empowerment thrown in for good measure. And, for the most part, this Robin Hood works, due mainly to some great performances and funny bits. While the script is talky at times with backstory (what else is there to do in a 14th-century England with no cellphones, texting or Snapchat?), the cast rises to the occasion, swords and sticks ablaze.
The 50-minute first act is all set up for the action to come in Act Two, when Robin (dashingly played by Dominique Worsley), Little John (James Fletcher) and Friar Tuck (Tommy Novak) are captured by the evil Sir Malcolm (Allie Babich in a dual role with Maid Marian). Rounding out the bad guy contingent is Maclay in fine, dimwitted form as the no-good Sheriff of Nottingham and Foust as the nasty Archbishop who gets a laugh just by the grating sound of his monotone voice.
The Sherwood cast of young actors performed opening night, and it’s a credit to the First Stage Theater Academy to see such talent continue to grow and flourish. Jack Burns’ waifish portrayal was spot-on as the off-key singer of bad minstrel songs. And in a tough nonspeaking role, Teddy Esten had some of the best parts as the silent Sir Thomas. His sense of movement and timing while telling the story of Robin’s capture was the mark of a seasoned professional. This Robin Hood is good reason for all to make merry!
Through March 12 at Todd Wehr Theater, Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, Riverwalk entrance. For tickets call 414-267-2961 or visit firststage.org.