Theatre at its best inspires awe and wonder with not only amazing performances, but also technical wonders resulting in a visual presentation that can defy reality. Such is the case with , the classic tale of the world’s most infamous outlaw who goes rogue in a heart-pounding, eye-popping, thoroughly magical new adventure directed by Gisli Örn Gardarsson and Selma Björnsdóttir, from Iceland’s innovative theater company Vesturport and the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (The Wallis).
The brilliant retelling of the Robin Hood tale from British writer David Farr (BBC’s “The Night Manager”) transforms the Bram Goldsmith Theater stage into Sherwood Forest and features daring acrobatics, outrageous comedy and soul-stirring songs from a live band led by Icelandic pop singer Salka Sól, a lovely, free-spirited blonde who mesmerizes the crowd with her mystical song stylings.
All is not well in Nottingham in this wildly inventive and raucous version of the great English myth. The cruel Prince John is terrorizing the countryside, the poor are up to their quivers in taxes, and Robin Hood has learned to steal from the rich, but hasn’t figured out the ‘give to the poor’ part yet.
In this particular time of chaos and fear, to the rescue comes sword-wielding, sharp-witted Maid Marion, who sets out to show Robin and his scary men that there can be honor among thieves. Will she convince Robin to listen to his heart if they are to save the country? And since Marion is being chided by her self-centered younger sister, Alice, to get married as soon as possible so she can also marry, Marion hopes to catch the eye of Robin Hood in the process. Of course, since she is disguised as a man, how will she be able to make that happen?
The rollicking production has Marion, Robin Hood and a well-built band of not-so-merry men swinging from ropes, flipping off drawbridges, and climbing on a 40-feet tall wall of Sherwood Forest. I was truly amazed and dazzled by the staging from the moment I entered the theater until the final aerial expression of spiritual bonding that takes place between Robin and Marion.
The Los Angeles and International ensemble cast is led by the mesmerizing Luke Forbes as Robin Hood, spunky Christina Bennett Lind as Maid Marion and Daniel Franzese as her hysterical sidekick Pierre. The entire talented ensemble certainly deserves kudos for everything each adds to the production: Moe Alafrangy, Jeremy Crawford (the amazing Fight and Aerial Captain who portrays Little John), Patrick de Ledebur, Hugo Fowler, Paige Herschell, Sarah Hunt, Lize Johnston, Jake Justice, Leonard Kelly-Young, Gavin Lewis, Kasey Mahaffy, Sam Meader, Ian Merrigan, Tennyson Morin, Lily Rose Silver, , Jeff Verghies and Patrick Woodall.
Many of the handsomely dressed cast (by costume designer Emma Ryott) not only fly through the air or perform wonders of acrobatic skill, but also have a great time sliding down the back tall wall of the amazing forest set (magnificently designed by Börkur Jónson and creatively lit by Ken Billington and Ed McCarthy) as their entrance point – even the musicians who do so while singing and playing their instruments!
“The Heart of Robin Hood” continues through Sunday, Dec. 17 at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts located at 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills. Single tickets are available for $35 to $125, by calling 310-746-4000, online at TheWallis.org/RobinHood, or by stopping by in person at .