‘Robin Hood!’ recreates the legend with humor

From left, Meredith Garretson as Maid Marian, Daniel Reece as Robin Hood, Andy Grotelueschen as Friar Tuck, and Paul Whitty as Little John are seen in the Globe-commissioned world premiere of Ken Ludwig's "Robin Hood!", running July 22 through Aug. 27, at The Old Globe. Photos by Jim Cox.
From left, Meredith Garretson as Maid Marian, Daniel Reece as Robin Hood, Andy Grotelueschen as Friar Tuck, and Paul Whitty as Little John are seen in the Globe-commissioned world premiere of Ken Ludwig’s “Robin Hood!”, running July 22 through Aug. 27, at The Old Globe. Photos by Jim Cox.

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal
Special to the Village News

Deep in the hush of Sherwood Forest lives a legend. It is nestled amongst the fallen trees, brooks that babble, and in the songs of whippoorwills. They sing the ballad of Robin Hood.

Somewhere between truth and legend, Robin Hood may have lived. Believed to have been born in 1160 in Loxley, Nottinghamshire, England, Robin reportedly died about 1247 which would have put him in his eighties.

Folklore has it, Robin was born to gentry and therefore, would have ascended to become the Earl of Huntington, after his two older siblings passed, he being the youngest of three legitimate sons.

Robin of Loxley would have lived during the reign of Richard I. It is further suggested that King Richard the Lionhearted even married him to his long time love, the Maid Marion.

True or not 400 years later, Shakespeare mentions Robin in several of his writings. Once in “As You Like It”, when Charles rejoinders, “already in the forest of Arden, and a many, merry men with him; and there they live with the old Robin Hood of England”.

Passed down through the centuries, the romance of Robin Hood continues to this day in perhaps one of the merriest of all tales.

Born again through the vivid imagination of world-renowned playwright Ken Ludwig, the new story of “Robin Hood!” unwinds beautifully when played in the round at the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre tucked next to the Old Globe in the Conrad Prebys Center at Balboa Park.

About the playwright Ken Ludwig it is said, one of his works is “performed every night of the year throughout the world in more than 30 countries in over 20 languages.”

Now then it can be understood how blessed the Old Globe is to have been able to commission one of his fine stories to be told here.

At the sold-out, standing-room only, world premiere of “Robin Hood!”, squeezed in the audience was none other than Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Mitchell) from ABC’s Modern Family. Like the rest in attendance, he was there to embrace the enchantment of this timeless fairy tale.

The story follows the tale of old – only filled with modern humor by a remarkably talented cast. Each had stand out performances worthy of the tale they tell.

As the legend is unfurled and voiced by Friar Tuck, our hero grows from gangly youth to virile manhood. Ruggedly handsome, Daniel Reece is an ideal Robin Hood. Swash buckling his way into the heart of the legend, Robin Hood lives anew.

Always at his side, the loyal and true Friar Tuck is personified by Andy Grotelueschen. It is his voice that rings the vibrant tale with jolliness and a wink portraying as great a Friar of old as ever to cover the footboards.

Amongst the merry men stands the boldest and albeit the tallest, Little John (Paul Whitty). Filled with humor, wit and impeccable timing, he brings his larger than life self into the maelstrom with quarterstaff and mandolin in hand.

A new character for this telling is a girl by the name of Doerwynn (Suzelle Palacios). A figment of the author’s creativity, she adds a new dimension by offering explanation for Robin’s involvement with the peasants. Palacios is athletic, engaging and adds a new depth to a timeless tale.

Ah, and then there is Maid Marian (Meredith Garretson) the ward of King Richard I left in the care of his brother, Prince John. Garretson’s Marian is a combination of all of Disney’s cartoon heroines. Only she is real. She is a spunky, athletic tomboy capable of hood-winking the too often gullible Robin as they grow up together in Nottingham near Sherwood Forest. Garretson is pretty and funny and the best Maid Marian ever!  Broadway bound no doubt.

Daniel Reece is Robin Hood in the Globe-commissioned world premiere of Ken Ludwig's "Robin Hood!", running July 22 through Aug. 27 at The Old Globe. Photo by Jim Cox.
Daniel Reece is Robin Hood in the Globe-commissioned world premiere of Ken Ludwig’s “Robin Hood!”, running July 22 through Aug. 27 at The Old Globe. Photo by Jim Cox.

Lest we forget there would not be a story without villains. In this tale, a rollicking account filled with quarterstaffs, swords and swinging vines,  Robin and his merry men create chaos for Prince John and his conspirators, Sir Guy of Gisbourne along with The Sheriff of Nottingham. Note “The” is capitalized and part of his title.

These three add soul to their ornery selves. First is the smarmy Prince John (Michael Boatman) acting as Regent, who desires to take over and rule the kingdom while his brother, Richard I is off fighting in the Crusades. Royal is his demeanor and commanding in his presence, the Prince can only curb his cruelty through spontaneous outbursts of prose not yet even written by the Bard. But, after all, this is a comedy.

Second is Sir Guy of Gisbourne aka Manoel Felciano. Brilliant! A lowlier cur could not be imagined while maintaining his royal aplomb. Felciano wreaks havoc with every smarmy command imposed on the wily The Sheriff of Nottingham (Kevin Cahoon).

Cahoon’s facial cavorting, coupled with a wry twisted delivery keeps everyone else in check. For instance, when berated by Sir Guy for not apprehending Robin Hood, The Sheriff of Nottingham answers with his Cheshire drawl, “he hides in the woods”. OMG, Cahoon is the funniest menace since Alan Rickman.

The show celebrates what can happen when talented people collaborate.  Beginning with an idea. Followed by a story written for players by a genius, directed by a wizard, dressed by experts, staged by pros and lit by a master with sound by a virtuoso; the magic all comes together in Balboa Park.

Do not wait. This is an intimate setting and shows sell out fast. “Robin Hood!” is in Balboa Park at the White Theatre in the round with performances through Sept. 3, 2017: 7 p.m. Tuesday/Wednesday, 8 p.m. Thursday/Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are available at the Box Office: 619 234-5623 or www.theoldglobe.org.  Arrive early to park.

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