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BWW Review: LIL RED ROBIN HOOD Is A Fun-Filled Romp Packed With Important Messages And Lessons

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BWW Review: LIL RED ROBIN HOOD Is A Fun-Filled Romp Packed With Important Messages And Lessons

What happens when a modern-day Little Red Riding Hood gets pulled back in time, dropped in a forest, and comes face-to-face with Maid Marion, Robin Hood, and an evil sheriff?

A lot. And it all happens hilariously, with full musical numbers, in Ross Petty's LIL RED ROBIN HOOD.

Directed and choreographed by Tracey Flye, the 24th annual Christmas panto blends two beloved fairy tales seamlessly. Centred on Lil Red (Robert Markus), a teenager struggling with a heavy workload and stressed over his reduced university prospects because of insufficient government support for public schools - a not so subtle callout to the current status of Ontario's education cuts that shadows the entire plot. After a plea to the universe for a bit of help, he's whisked through a portal in his locker and dumped in the Sherway Gardens Forest. There, he meets Maid Marion (AJ Bridel), a teacher who's been forced to educate students in secret by the Sheriffe of Naughtyham (Sara-Jeanne Hosie), and her companion Sugarbum (Michael De Rose).

After Red's world history book is stolen by the Sheriffe and her right-hand magician Marvin (Eddie Glen), they must team up with Marion's husband Robin Hood (Lawrence Libor), Friar Tuck (Daniel Williston) and the rest of the merry people. Robin and Marion's reunion doesn't fit the happy ending of the classic tale, though - the two are going through a rough patch based on a disagreement stemming from their career choices and beliefs, which opens up an interesting little subplot about communication and compromise. At its core, though, LIL RED ROBIN HOOD is about Red, and his journey from a nervous teenager to an innovative, courageous hero.

The demands of LIL RED ROBIN HOOD are extensive - there's acting, big song and dance numbers, and plenty of comedy, both scripted and improv. These challenges are navigated nearly perfectly across the entire ensemble, with only a few breaks and delivery fumbles during the performance I attended. As the run carries forward, these minor issues will likely work themselves out; but getting to experience them doesn't detract from the story at all - in fact, it makes it feel more real. Markus is a great central character, with a strong voice that delivers both modern and classic pop numbers wonderfully and with an innocence that makes you root for him instantly.

Bridel brings Marion into the modern age, leaning away from damsel-in-distress to a character that's strong and independent, but still able to empathize and learn from others when it's necessary. As Robin Hood, Libor has all the pomp and charm of the legendary figure, but softens naturally when he has to take on a mentorship role with Red. Williston and De Rose are a hilarious pair as Tuck and Sugarbum, and De Rose's constant one-liners, referential jokes and genuine likeability is what makes the character so perfect. Hosie takes on the role of antagonist once again, and her blend of over-the-top dramatics and blunt delivery is perfect for the Sheriffe, and her chemistry with Christmas panto veteran Glen is undeniable - especially during Glen's rendition of "Cold as Ice."

The brightly coloured sets (set design by Cory Sincennes) blend seamlessly with the Winter Garden Theatre, taking advantage of the greenery built right into the stage and audience areas. On-and-off stage lighting (lighting design by Kimberly Purtell) makes for an eye-catching experience, and the vast array of costumes (costume design by Michael Gianfrancesco) are detailed, gorgeous, and - thankfully - very practical. There's no tripping through a forest in heels for any characters - sneakers and flat boots are staples, which is a simple but nice thing to see in media made primarily for children.

Kids will take away important lessons on courage, the necessity of education, and how to communicate openly and make compromises to benefit the people in one's life. Adults will get dozens of jokes and references that are just for them, and everyone gets to experience a fast-paced, unique take on beloved fairy tales that's packed to the brim with pop hits and great characters.


Ross Petty Productions' LITTLE RED ROBIN HOOD runs through January 4 at the Winter Garden Theatre, 189 Yonge St, Toronto, ON.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit https://www.rosspetty.com/current-show/

Photo credit: Racheal McCaig


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