Shalom Life | January 20, 2015

REVIEW: 'The Heart of Robin Hood' Enchants and Excites Toronto Audiences

This unique take on a classic tale is sure to charm everyone that attends.

By: Annie Constantinescu

Published: January 16th, 2015 in Culture » Stage » Reviews

Once upon a time, in a land far away, there was a mystical place called Toronto. There were many things that one could do to pass the time in Toronto. One could visit a variety of captivating attractions such as dining at one of the hundreds of exquisite restaurants, absorbing the view from the top of the CN Tower, or simply walking around the light-laden streets. However, it is said that there is a secret occasion in this land that is only shared with the most adventurous of people. These lucky few are usually brave of mind, and kind of heart - but today you are in luck, as we are about to share this rare piece of wisdom with you. This magical event is bold, alluring, and charming; and it goes by the name of The Heart Of Robin Hood.

Fast forward to the 21st century, The Heart of Robin Hood is a tale about exactly that – the heart of Robin Hood. This twist on the classic fairytale elaborates on the story behind our forest-loving hero, and in fact, before he was a hero at all. This unique blend of colloquial language, bluegrass music, witty humour, and live-action sword fighting will have you completely enchanted within a matter of minutes.

The story starts us off in the infamous Sherwood Forest where Robin Hood (played by the handsome Gabriel Ebert) enters with his band of merry men – except they aren’t so merry. They have a gruesome reputation that becomes quite apparent in the opening scenes, however their foul nature is slightly soothed by the fact that they’re all shirt-less – okay, greatly soothed. Soon after, the audience is introduced to a restless Maid Marion (played by the dynamic Izzie Steele) and her iconic best friend/jester, Pierre (played by the astounding Christian Lloyd). Pierre supports Marion as she devises a rather precarious plan to escape her betrothment to the heinous Prince John (played by the talented Euan Morton). She adopts a clever disguise and runs off into the forest to find the one and only Robin Hood - and that’s where our story really begins!

When one thinks of a Royal Shakespeare Company production, one does not usually picture a rowdy, bluegrass and folk band accompanying the show. However, just as this Robin Hood rendition reinvented a classic story, this musical group reinvented the engagement and success of this unique music genre. Parsonsfield, the five-piece Americana band from Connecticut, seamlessly integrate into the story by becoming an extension of Hood’s band of merry men - a musical band of merry men if you will. Their upbeat songs, chilling harmonies, and unique concoction of instruments add an astonishing layer to an already stunning show. One could argue that just watching this band would be worth the price of the ticket.

As great as the acting and the music was, the most unforgettable part of the production would have to be the way that the characters interacted with the set. I want you to think Cirque Du Soleil meets Katniss Everdeen, and then you’ll start to get the picture. There was no scene where there wasn’t someone climbing a tree, cascading down a rope, walking up a wall, sliding down a slope, jumping down a hole, or falling into a pond. Yes. That’s right. I said pond. The set had its very own pool of water built in and without giving too much away, there are a few characters that get completely drenched by falling in. On top of all that, the overall set design was breathtaking as the stage was completely transformed by a forest canopy blanketing it.

As a final note, it’s hard not to absolutely love The Heart of Robin Hood. Scantily clad men aside, Maid Marion is our strong-willed and assertive protagonist who takes on a more daring and adventurous role in this rendition. Marion, and her male alter ego Martin, completely redefine what a damsel in distress is as she fights (literally) for what is right while attempting to warm the heart of a fearsome and heart-less Robin Hood.

Now that you know this wonderful ‘secret event’ I HIGHLY recommend that you go see this show as The Heart of Robin Hood is only playing at the stunning Royal Alexandra Theatre until March 1st. Catch it now in Toronto before it goes to Broadway in the spring and this enchanted town leaves the streets of Hogtown forever.

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