Friday, April 2, 1999
Robin Hood The Seventh Grade Musical . . . Comes to Carlisle's Corey Auditorium
The legend of Robin Hood is so familiar that many attending last weekend's performances of Robin Hood, The Musical may have come expecting few surprises. But Carlisle's seventh graders presented a fresh, thoroughly enjoyable production that added the sparkle of comedy to all the elements we've come to expectgreed, plots, rescues, romance, and swashbuckling action.
Jennie Siegel masterfully portrayed the scheming Lady Merle whose plans to advance her cousin Prince John to the throne are thwarted when childhood friends Robin Hood and Maid Marian are reunited in Sherwood Forest. Her biting sarcasm, quick wit, and withering looks were highlights of the production and a powerful contrast to the lovely simplicity of Samantha Saltz's Maid Marian.
Robbie Clark delivered a strong, consistent performance as the leader of the merry band of men and women (Mari Alberico, Kim Anderson, Lauren Connors, Christina Daugherty, Chris Fields, Jimmy Ford, Meredith Haggerty, Megan Lyons, Jessie Nock, Craig Pederson, Ned Phillips-Jones, Elizabeth Popolo, Nick Probolus, Caitlin Quinn, Emily Rolando, and Mary Snell.) The band's performance was spirited and convincing, especially when, armed with pitchforks and staves, they sang "Never Defeated," vowing that no man would stand alone. Beth (Natalia Samman) and Mother Meg (Emma Canina) especially stood out for their lovely voices and stage presence. Chris Rainville and Lucas Bennett gave strong performances as Robin's friends Little John and Will Scarlett.
The comic team of Jonathan Pan as the Sheriff of Nottingham and Jacob Boxer as his deputy gave a delightful twist to the legend. Pan was excellent as the inept, slow-witted, "happy to serve" sheriff who fancies himself "such a clever man" although he never quite comprehends Lady Merle's plots. Their sense of "military strategy" is to crawl away as their soldiers (Caleb Hsieh, Alex Jeffers, Rory Moulton, Sam Rolley, and Johnny Stone) engage in heated sword fights with Robin's band that were expertly choreographed with the help of Ron Heneghan.
Jennifer Morin was superb as Salome, the sheriff's brainless, desperate-to-be-married daughter. Her signature hyena laugh, clumsiness, and comical sense of fashion were a hilarious contrast to the elegance of her friends played by Emily Fiorentino and Josey Kirkland. Charlotte Siegel gave an equally humorous performance as the sheriff's wife who imagines herself a great lady of society. Her French was so convoluted even Madame Baker would have a hard time straightening her out!
The fair was a showcase of talent as acrobats Mari Alberico and Ashley Khederian adroitly performed a series of amazing flips across the stage while jugglers, a jester, mime, actor, and minstrel worked the crowd. The dancing, tug of war, and three-legged race, as well as the lovely scenery were evocative of a medieval fair and helped to mask Lady Merle's devious plot to capture Robin Hood as he is drawn into an archery contest with her champion Kaspar skillfully played by David Pedra. Exposed when he claims the prize, Robin escapes with his men running through the aisle to the delight of the audience.
The night before she is to leave to marry Prince John, all the ladies-in-waiting (Libby Daltas, Kristin Bergstrom, Alyssa Casey, Meredith Eaton, Megan Gillard, Stephanie Ivanov, Susan Modeen, Amanda Rao, and Joslyn Tarr), exquisite in their soft-toned gowns, try to console Maid Marian. Their song, "Every Maiden Wants to Marry," and the dance choreographed by Meredith Eaton and Josey Kirkland were lovely. The delightful role of Friar Tuck was not wasted on Jon Kyle. From his initial fight scene with Robin Hood to masterminding the plan (and providing the ballast) for the ladies to help Robin's men to enter the castle and rescue Maid Marian, it was apparent that Kyle not only knew how to make the best of the moment, but was enjoying it.
The high point in every Robin Hood story is when the king returns from the Crusades to right all wrongs. The stranger questioning the Old Widow (Clare Nosowitz) and her granddaughter (Ashley Khederian) at the fair turns out to be none other than King Richard. Ned Phillip-Jones gave a commanding performance as he banished Lady Merle, reprimanded the sheriff, and consented to Marian marrying the newly knighted Robin Hood.
"Directing a play in Carlisle is an interesting process," commented Nancy Gahagen. "Most of the students have had no experience doing a play. It's wonderful to see them develop, to find abilities they didn't know they had."
Producer Cindy Nock points out that "as class sizes get larger, it takes more to involve everyone." With over seventy in the Class of 2000, it was remarkable that two-thirds were on stage and nearly all the others contributed to the play in some other way, including stage crew, lighting, set design, scenery and props, ushers, posters and programs. "The emphasis this year was that everyone is vital to the success of the play no matter what role he plays."
Days after the production I've overheard children singing "Hi Ho Robin Hood," proof that the seventh graders not only gained a great deal from the process, but they gave something very special of themselves to the town. For this we thank them!
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito