Reviews: Robin Hood, The Legendary Musical Comedy and Wait Until Dark

by Lynn on January 18, 2013

in The Passionate Playgoer

The following two reviews were broadcast on Friday, January 18, 2013 CIUT FRIDAY MORING, on 89.5 FM: ROBIN HOOD, THE LEGENDARY MUSICAL COMEDY at Hart House Theatre until January 26, and WAIT UNTIL DARK at the Storefront Theatre 955 Bloor St. W. until January 26.

1) Good Friday morning, it’s time for our theatre fix with Lynn Slotkin our theatre critic and passionate playgoer.

Hi Lynn, what are you going to talk about today?

Two show. First Robin Hood, The Legendary Musical Comedy at our own Hart House.

Then for something completely different the wet-your-pants thriller, Wait Until Dark produced by Red One Theatre collective at their new venue called the Storefront Theatre at 955 Bloor St. W.

2) I’m really interested in this one because last week we interviewed Jesse MacLean who directed it and Daniel James who plays Robin Hood.

I know and I didn’t want to be anywhere near to hear it because I think it’s compromising to do an interview of the people you will then review. A bit of a conflict there…. So I hid in a dark corner of the third floor not listening while you did the interview.

3) OK The creators of this musical skewer the story don’t they?

They do sort of. A dashing young man named Robin of Locksley has come home after years of fighting in the crusades with King Richard the Lionheart. Everybody is surprised to see him—they thought he was dead. They say so, repeatedly.

His house has been taken over by Prince John, the scummy brother of King Richard. Robin goes off into the woods to escape the dastardly Prince John and meets a band of merry men led by Will Scarlett, who is a woman.

Will Scarlett and the men rob the rich and keep the money. But along the way that is changed to giving the money to the poor. And of course this being the time of chivalry, Robin takes the leadership of the merry men, from Will, who’s miffed, but also sweet on Robin, who only has eyes for Maid Marion, who is attached to Prince John. And on and on, and they sing about it, endlessly.

4) Gives us a bit of background on this show. It started in Halifax last summer right?

It was created in 2005 by a collective of artists of the acting company of Shakespeare by the Sea in Halifax.

One of the composers was Jeremy Hutton, now the Artistic Director of Hart House Theatre. In fact Jeremy played Robin Hood in that production. They worked on it again, more people joined the collective to refine it and the result is the new version at Hart House now until Jan. 26.

So the music and lyrics are by Kieren MacMillan, and Jeremy Hutton. The book is by William Foley, Jeremy Hutton, Jesse MacLean, Kevin MacPherson and Kate Smith.

5) Do you think creating by committee or collective is a good idea?

I get the sense that this was a very democratic situation.
If one of them thought he/she had a great idea, or joke, or pun, or plot twist or song, they just kept it in. But in the real world of creating musical theatre there has to be some rigor in deciding what to cut and in this case there is scant rigor and lots and lots of flab.

While the dialogue is very funny and the songs are very clever, I think the show is a bloated two hours and 45 minutes long. Cut 45 minutes at least. The collective has to examine why a song is there.

In a musical a song either conveys character or progresses the plot. In Robin Hood, the Legendary Musical Comedy, too many songs just reiterate what is said in dialogue.

For example, Prince John says he’s really evil. Then he and his equally evil partner, the Sheriff of Nottingham and their goons sing about how evil they are in many and various ways. We get the point.

Their goons also have a song “Isn’t It Great” (To Be A Goon)… This is called overkill. I counted four songs that could be cut in Act I alone.

It’s suffused with cleverness, often cleverness for its own sake. Very quickly this wears thin and it becomes boring.

6) Is the production at least lively?

Very lively. The cast is terrific lead by the dashing Daniel James as Robin Hood. Robin knows he’s good looking. He poses, slicks back his hair, moves gracefully. Sings well.

As the dastardly Prince John, Kevin MacPherson is very focused and consistent in his evil ways. He’s also endlessly inventive with his cape and other props.

As Maid Marian, Jennifer Morris is an ice queen of reserve and lustiness at the same time. She knows how to twist men around her digits. And as Will Scarlett, Kelly McCormack is diminutive, spunky, and really funny.

Everyone sings well and often. It’s directed with endless cleverness by Jesse MacLean. I think he has the potential to be charming and funny and clever too, with a lot of judicious pruning.

I would recommend it to a young, university crowd. The show feels like a frat house entertainment.

7) And now Wait Until Dark. Why do you call it the-wet- your-pants-thriller?

Because it’s full of danger, evil characters, and moments of such darkness and fright that, well, you might, do damage to the furniture you’re sitting on. Wait Until Dark was written by Fredrick Knott and is produced by the wonderful, edgy Red One Theatre Collective.

It involves a little doll. A photographer named Sam is coming back to New York from Canada. He chats up a woman who asks him to take the doll back to New York for her—it’s a present for her niece. He does that, but takes the doll to his office.

He tells his wife Suzy about the doll but things get murky when he’s supposed to pass the doll on. What Sam and Suzy don’t know is that the doll is full of heroin. To add a wrinkle Suzy is also blind.

Along the way the woman who gave Sam the doll is killed by an associate-psychopath named Roat because he didn’t trust her.

What follows is a maddeningly convoluted storyline by playwright Fredrick Knott of Roat and his thugs trying to terrify Suzy and also get her to give them the doll. Since she’s blind, that adds to the suspense. She swears she doesn’t know where it is, but she knows these guys are no good. Suzy is quite fearless in her own way.

8) How’s the production?

It think Red One Theatre Collective have done a splendid job.They are working in a new pace that’s called The Storefront Theatre, because it’s a converted store front on Bloor West. It’s very make-shift, but that’s the charm. It’s theatre on the cheap but never sloppy.

The set for example is re-used, re-purposes and re-worked props, pieces and furniture and it beautifully creates the home of Sam who is sighted and Suzy who is not.

It’s directed by first time director, Benjamin Blais, who’s also a wonderful actor. He has a flare for directing, for creating, maintaining and building suspense. His staging is efficient and fluid and I tell you when the lights go out, it’s a pitch dark that I have rarely seen.

As Suzy, Dayle McLeod creates a trusting soul who is quick witted. And she is totally convincing as a blind woman. As Roat the smooth thug who has no fear of killing someone who crosses him, Tyrone Savage is all honey tones, easy banter with a sense of whimsy to his danger. He’s named his knife. Sweet. And dangerous.

And as Gloria, Claire Armstrong plays a young girl who is developmentally challenged. It’s a detailed, fine performance. She wears big glasses that she always adjusts. Gloria is awkward, playful, secretive but capable.

I just love the chutzpah of Red One Theatre Collective. They have no press people and depend on word of mouth. Ok, this mouth is sending you the word.

Go and see Wait Until Dark now before it’s too late.

Thanks Lynn. That’s Lynn Slotkin our theatre critic and passionate playgoer. You can read Lynn’s blog at

Robin Hood, The Legendary Musical Comedy plays at Hart House Theatre until January 26.

Wait Until Dark plays at the Storefront Theatre at 955 Bloor St. W. until January 26.

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