BWW Review: Ottawa Musicals' ROBIN HOOD is Fun for the Whole Family
I was invited to attend Ottawa Musicals' opening night performance of Robin Hood at the Gladstone Theatre. Each holiday season, Ottawa Musicals puts on a pantomime performance specifically geared to families. This production of Robin Hood is full of song and dance numbers, as well as plenty of jokes (some for the kiddies; some for the adults). The story, written by Mark Allan - who also plays Little John - has a traditional Robin Hood plotline, but adds a couple of oddball characters for good measure, including the flirtatious Nanny Annie (Constant Bernard) and Selfie the Elf (Declan Cassidy), who lives in the forest frequented by Robin Hood (Chad Connell) and his gang. Will Scarlet (Cara Pantalone) appears as a would-be member of Robin's band who speaks only in rhyme.
Maid Marion (Émilie O'Brien) is also given a modern twist; rather than being portrayed as a maiden in distress, she shows spirit and courage, hatching a scheme to rescue Robin after he finds himself imprisoned in the castle. She also rejects the notion that fairy tales must end in a happily-ever-after marriage for the princess.
Audience participation is widely encouraged, and is predominantly used to heckle Prince John (Shelley Simester) and the Sheriff of Nottingham (Andy Allen-McCarthy) whenever they appear on stage. When Robin faces off against the Sherriff for Maid Marion's hand in marriage, audience members are selected as his co-competitors. At one point, the audience is invited to have a mini sing-a-long with Robin and his band, with the lyrics displayed on the screen onstage.
The musical score was a mix of original songs and pop rock hits that were also sometimes adapted for the story. This made it easy for the audience to get into the show.
As the actors were settling in to their roles on opening night, a few gaffes were noticed; however, these were skillfully covered up through the actors' ad-libbing, which was easy to do because of the nature of the show.
Allen-McCarthy, previously seen in Orpheus' production of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert the Musical earlier this year, was once again outstanding as the Sheriff of Nottingham. He revelled in the crowd's jeers and stayed in character throughout the show. His rendition of "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" was utterly hilarious. Prince John was depicted as a sneering, spoiled brat of a prince and Simester had good chemistry with Allen-McCarthy to make up the other half of an entertaining evil duo.
Bernard was excellent in the role of the lecherous Nanny Annie, with make-up worthy of the Cirque du Soleil. Bernard was engaging, encouraging the audience, and also had the best one-liners of the show. Rémi, a good natured audience member who received the bulk of Nanny Annie's attentions, will probably never be the same again.
Connell, O'Brien, Pantalone and Allan also gave good performances, with all of them helping to get the audience actively involved in the story.
Overall, this is a charming show that is highly recommended for families with children of all ages. Robin Hood is playing at the Gladstone Theatre until January 5, 2020. For more information or to buy tickets, go to https://ottawamusicals.com.