Review: ‘Robin Hood’ by Encore Stage & Studio

Encore Stage & Studio was founded in 1967 and produces “theatre by kids, for kids.” Their current show is Robin Hood, the classic tale of the brave archer who steals from the rich to give to the poor.

Robin Hood, played by Xander Tilock, shoots the golden arrow to the target. Photo by Cindy Kane Photography.
Robin Hood, played by Xander Tilock, shoots the golden arrow to the target. Photo by Cindy Kane Photography.

Artistic Director Susan A. Keady directs this high-energy production. Jim Clancy (Assistant Director/Fight Choreographer), Kristen Jepperson (Technical Director), Debra Leonard (Costume and Makeup Designer), Kevin Curry (Sound Consultant), Gary Hauptman (Lighting Director), Matt Heap (Composer), and Caolan Eder (Props Manager) join her on the production team.

The set, designed by Kerstin Fagerstrom, is mostly open with large trees to represent Sherwood Forrest. And there are various carts and small mobile structures that are moved on and off the stage.

The show begins with a single dancer (Emma Lacy), who dances beautifully and appears to be a sprite, embodying the spirit of the forest.

Xander Tilock plays the confident and charming Robin Hood. With his right-hand man, Little John (Oliver Meek), Robin leads his merry men and the poor people of Nottingham, whom he provides with shelter in the safety of Sherwood Forest.

The group encounters Friar Tuck (Conor Farah) and is at first unsure of his loyalties. Robin and Tuck exchange banter and agree to a duel, but once Tuck is defeated (though not without putting up a very good fight) he learns the identity of his sparring partner is the infamous Robin Hood and decides to join with them.

The evil Sheriff, hilariously played by Erik Fagerstrom, who has been forcing people out of their homes if they cannot afford to pay his exorbitant taxes, is traveling with the Lady Merle (Hannah Torma). She is bringing the Maid Marian (Quinn Sumerlin) to King John to be his bride.

(For backstory purposes: the beloved and rightful King Richard has been imprisoned during the war and his younger brother John has unlawfully assumed his crown.)

The Sheriff and Lady Merle believe that wedding King John to Maid Marian, the previous ward of King Richard, would help legitimize his claim to rule, while also endearing him to the people through their affection for Marian.

Yet before the caravan can reach King John, Robin and his crew rob the group, even stripping the Sheriff down to his skivvies.

Sparks fly between Marian and Robin, who are clearly in love.

Robin Hood, played by Xander Tilock, greets Maid Marian, played by Quinn Sumerlin. Photo by Cindy Kane Photography.
Robin Hood, played by Xander Tilock, greets Maid Marian, played by Quinn Sumerlin. Photo by Cindy Kane Photography.

But Torma’s Lady Merle is fantastically cold and menacing, which plays as an entertaining contrast to Fagerstrom’s bumbling Sheriff. She vows she must have revenge on Robin Hood and devises a plan, using his affection for Marian against him, to capture him once and for all.

A ceremony is held with lively music, Morris Dancers (Jeb Bachrack, Jackie Bruen, Sarah McBurney, and Will Ruff), and an archery contest, with the prize of a golden arrow to be presented by Marian.

Robin arrives in a disguise, but will Lady Merle recognize him? Will her plan succeed? Can Robin save his love from the horrible fate of wedding a tyrant? Most know how the story goes, but I won’t give it all away.

I must also mention some standouts. Maggie Donnelly, as the Sheriff’s Wife, was pure comedy gold. Her timing and delivery hit perfectly every time, while also managing to never overstep or steal too much focus (which I am quite confident she could do if directed).

The Sheriff’s daughter, Salome (Isa Paley), was also a frequent source of laughter (and snorts). And America Flores, as the Mistress of Ceremonies, stood out with her presence and command of the stage.

Congratulations should be given to all of the young performers, though. Everyone did an excellent job throughout the production. And it’s clear that Encore’s team puts their heart and soul into their work and in teaching the kids involved.

Encore Stage & Studio’s production of Robin Hood was an absolute delight to watch. The show is family-friendly and can be enjoyed by kids young and old.

Running Time: One hour and thirty minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.

Robin Hood plays through March 3rd, 2019, at Encore Stage & Studio performing at Gunston Arts Center – 2700 S. Lang St. in Arlington, VA. Purchase tickets online.