(Actors Colin Zorit, as Robin Hood, and Mercedes Ranjit as Maid Marian performing during rehearsal of Korda Artistic Productions original holiday panto, Robin Hood, at Kordazone Theatre in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, December 5, 2019. Photo above by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.)
Although it is called a Panto, a tradition of British theatre, Korda’s latest production, Robin Hood, might best be described as a hilarious romp through the land by men wearing tights. But that’s not all. The musical comedy is packed with enjoyable scenes all based on an intriguingly funny script by Korda Artistic Production’s founder Tracey B. Atin that brings lots of planned hilarity to the stage.
Korda itself holds nothing back in its promotion saying the play is chock-a-block with “naughty jokes for the grown-ups, bad drag, great music, and loads of audience participation for everyone in a goofy, delightful, all-ages musical production to close out the season in style.”
Without question, it is the best season closeout in a while and most of it is because of the 21 actors who bring this new take on the famed robber Robin Hood to life. It is actually a brought back alive Panto, first performed by the company in 2008 but with some changes to the script to make it even more contemporary.
Although ascribed to the period “from King Arthur to Winston Churchill,” somehow, as only playwright Atin could, names torn from today’s headlines are sprinkled throughout.
The amusing Rachel Hillis, serving in the role of Hilland Dale, the Minstrel of Sherwood Forests, sets the pace from the get-go when she laments about being unable to play her instrument because of “minstrel cramps.”
She also keeps the audience in the plot’s loop, as narrator, starting out by explaining why Robin Hood robs from the rich, “the poor really don’t have much to take,” she reasons.
From that moment the curtain rises, the play’s cleverly constructed twists and turns start in earnest, sometimes adhering to the Robin Hood story and sometimes pulling in characters from other fables. This would include Little Red Riding Hood, known as Red, played with great apathy by Brooke Dominguez, and of course Batman.
David Lucier does a masterful job on the role of the caped crusader, aka the Black Knight. He is there simply because you can’t really have Robin without Batman. All of this mixing of metaphors and just about anything else is precisely planned.
At least that is what Colin Zorit, who holds the title role and performs with great aplomb in the face of great danger, tells Eyes On Windsor. He admits about there be nothing “of any stakes in the play, but we perform it very seriously.”
Indeed, he does.
Even actions are humourously drawn from elsewhere. Protagonist Hood quite often, at least three times, given his appropriate outfit, assumes the Captain Morgan pose.
Out of nowhere, okay, back of the house, runs a young debutante. She is almost convinced she is there for an audition for a Mirvish play. Mirvish is the producer of much of Toronto’s live theatre.
Mercedes Ranjit, who is cute as a button and twice as sweet, gets the part but, like everything else in the play, is not quite sure of her role, walking onto the stage at one point dressed as a maid named Marian. Once in proper costume she does an incredible job, particularly noticeable in her rapport with Zorit’s Robin Hood. They are made for each other and give the play a side salad of true romance.
It is these little nuances which bring so much delight to the audience. That and the fact there is not a line in the script that is without some degree of humour which keeps the audience smiling. There is not a glum face in the house and this is further accentuated by a decided melodramatic side to the production which has the audience members, after being given instructions, fully participating in the on-stage action.
The two villains in the story are rather self-indulgent and performed with great ease and style by Jennifer Desaulniers as Prince John with her constant companion Matt Alexander playing the Sheriff of Rottingham. Collectively they provide a duo foil to Robin Hood and add a little wickedness to the plot.
Robert Godden directs the music and plays guitar, with Penny Whitle on flute and Maria Lynn Davis on trumpet. Godden has assembled a score that is highly reminiscent of the music heard with affection at Renaissance Fairs. And true to the Panto experience, he also takes on the role of Lady Lydia de Noyse, and handles it with great accomplishment and some very surprising lines.
Keeping an audience fully energized through a two-act play is one of the highlights of Robin Hood, and the sole reason it should not be missed. Those audience members are not just smiling because of the words, they are equally enthralled by the exceptional music particularly a number of tunes which draw on the full vocal power and talent of all actors on the stage. It is nothing if not magnificent.
As the weather cools, and the days darken, Robin Hood adds a little , brightness, a little romance, a little mystery and a truckload of darn good, unrepentant fun to a night at the theatre. Apropos, there is something else Zorit said, about it being such a fun play to do. Which means, for this Panto, the cast and audience are living in a full fun zone.
Windsor has eleven chances to catch this dramatic twist on Robin Hood humour. Opening night is Friday, December 6. Additional performances will be on December 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 15, 19, 20, 21 & 22, 2019 at the Kordazone Theatre. Showtimes are 7pm Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturday with 2pm matinees on Sundays. General admission is $20, seniors $15, students $10 and there is a $50 Family 4-Pack
The show on Sunday, December 15, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. will be a charity performance while the December 12th show is pay what you can night.
For more information visit Robin Hood An Original Holiday Panto by Korda Artistic Productions in the Eyes On Windsor events listings.
Article by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.