Wascally Wobin Hood Wocks My World

dan chameroy, eva avila, jeff irving, ross petty, jessica holmes, yvan pedneault
Last evening at the Elgin Theatre was reminiscent of that scene in the film Finding Neverland (2004) where J.M Barrie (played by Johnny Depp) ensures that the Opening Night audience of his Peter Pan is peppered with the children for whom the play was written. So, too at Ross Petty’s Opening of Robin Hood: The EnvironMENTAL Family Musical did the theatre resonate with the distinct energy of the young, with their exuberance and excitement both for this pantomime and, presumably, for the much anticipated visit from Santa Claus rapidly approaching. This sense of magic was accentuated by J.C. Olivier’s beautiful set and the grandeur of the Elgin Theatre which made the entire night seem as though all of us young at heart were watching a fairytale emerge before our eyes as we sat in a beautiful castle.
Although I have been familiar with the convention of the Christmas Pantomime (a musical theatre comedy based on a number of traditional story lines which incorporates the singing of popular songs, dance, buffoonery, slapstick, cross-dressing, in-jokes, and audience participation) this was the first time I had the fortune of attending one. It was the most fun that I have had in the theatre for a long time. From the absolutely hysterical prologue, during which “Celine Dion” sings bilingual snippets of “My Heart Will Go On” and emasculates her husband, Rene, to the lumberjacks (Justin Stadnyk and Adam Stevenson) running off toward their own happily ever after, this show is non-stop hilarity, bursting with energy and boasts of some of Toronto’s most talented and beloved performers.
Colin Heath is full of charm as the tumbling, bumbling pickpocket Pinch, the henchman who helps the Sheriff of Nottingham swindle an important deed out of the bedroom of Maid Marion’s Nurse amid a brilliant, showstopping performance by the company of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Jessica Holmes is “wudderly welightful” as Eyuba, Queen of the Forest, and shows off her powerful voice to fantastic effect. Jaz Sealey is hip hop bliss as L’il Sean John, who goes from an array of impressive dance moves, to singing a beautiful rendition of “What a Wonderful World,” his voice soaring gorgeously through the theatre. Yvan Pedneault is a true rock star as Jacques le Rock, who makes continual self-concious reference to the role he played in Mirvish’s We Will Rock You for over two years. Pedneault’s vocal talent is mind-blowing, his voice and distinct stage presence is rival to that of any rock singer you could find. And what’s more baby, he can act! Jeff Irving makes a charismatic Robin Hood, and it is such fun to watch Irving, known for more somber and serious roles in The Sound of Music and The December Man showing off his comic and goofy side with complete brash abandon. He has such a lovely voice, but in this production, it is all about the way he raps it. Eva Avila, of Canadian Idol fame, has a fantastic pop star quality about her, and when she is singing and dancing she is in her element and the stage alights with her energy. At times when she’s acting, however, it seems like she hasn’t entirely connected to her lines, but this may come in the ensuing weeks as she settles into the role.
The recipe for success in this show is undoubtedly the blending of the talents of Ross Petty (Producer, Sherrif of Nottigham), Director Ted Dykstra and Dan Chameroy. Most of the most brilliant and clever comedy in this show has a signature Ted Dykstra stamp on it, and Petty’s interactions with his loudly booing public are topical and cutting. My favourite of the lines he came up with last night was, “Enough, enough, this is Sherwood Forrest not Tiger Woods.” Zing!Perfect. There are also two occasions upon which the show pauses to hear a word from the show’s sponsors, and I have to say, the makers of Canadian commercials should take a hint from Dykstra, Petty and Chameroy because if all our commercials were this much fun, the Superbowl would be paying us to take one of their million dollar advertising spots! I also must give a shout out to Cassidy (11), Jaclyn (6) and Chelsea (4) who gave the show a triple dose of adorable. And then, of course, there’s Chameroy’s beloved Plumbum, the redeemed Ugly Stepsister from last year’s Cinderella, who now works in Sherwood Forrest as Maid Marion’s nurse. Chameroy is this show. Every line he says is absolutely perfect, his costume, his delivery, his incredibly ridiculous antics, and especially his Olympic offering with Chinese ribbon sticks, it is all guaranteed to induce happy howls from a delighted audience.
Robin Hood: The EnvironMENTAL Family Musical is a clever and inventive retelling of Robin Hood, which offers its young glow-sword and glow-wand wielding audience an eco-friendly message amid just the right amount of craziness, heroics, romance, music (directed by Bob Foster) and incredible dancing (choreographed by the sublimely talented Tracey Flye) that will appeal to boys and girls, children, their parents and anyone who seeks to find a bit of merriment this holiday season.
But don’t just take my word for it: I had the ultimate privilege of catching up with some of the experts after the show next to one of the biggest Christmas trees any of us had ever seen. Here is what the experts had to say about Robin Hood when asked what their favourite part of the production was:
“My favourite part was when they kissed *giggle*”- Allison, age 6 1/2
“I liked all of it,”- Theo, age 8
“I liked all of it. I thought it was a really great show,”- Kylie, age 8
To which, Allison responded, “Me too. I thought it was a really great show too!” and Theo added, “Me three!”
“My favourite part was when Robin Hood shot the arrow and it went right in the centre and it split the other arrow in half!!!”- Caleb, age 8 1/2
“When Plumbum playing crazy fell on the ground!”- Rosie, age 6.
The experts have spoken, folks. Check out this show.

Ross Petty’s Robin Hood: The EnvironMENTAL Family Musical plays until January 3rd, 2010 at the Elgin Theatre (189 Yonge Street, Toronto). For more information please visit www.rosspetty.com or to book tickets call 416.872.5555 or visit www.ticketmaster.ca.

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