A well-timed new musical implores us to be Robin Hood

Be Robin Hood! It’s about time to revisit the heroic outlaw who has a unique mission of righting the wrongs of income inequality. We are just coming out of a dramatic period when those deemed essential workers put their lives on the line while billionaires got over a trillion dollars richer, especially Jeff Bezos, who ensured that we didn’t have to leave our houses while Amazon shipped us products at ever faster speeds. So, what better opportunity to take a deeper dive into the story of the Bernie Sanders of the middle-ages.

“Hood” is the last show of the Asolo Repertory Theatre season, which was pulled off gracefully despite the remnants of COVID obstacles, and it marks the debut of Broadway greats five-time Tony® nominated Douglas Carter Beane and director Mark Brokaw at Sarasota’s premiere theater. With a great pedigree, “Hood” has been in the works for a few years, and it’s so thrilling to have the opportunity to see a local production with high hopes for Broadway.

We first meet the famed nobles Robert of Locksley (Anthony Chatmon II) and Maid Marian (Savy Jackson) when they are playful young children having an adorable debate about who is the better marksman (clearly Marian). There’s quite a lot of chemistry there both between the two and with the audience. Chatmon and Jackson ooze charisma, and the energy drops a bit when the Sheriff of Nottingham (Nick Rehberger) splits them up and grabs Marian for himself.

The cast of “Hood” (photo by Frank Atura)

Soon a hooded Robert escapes to the forest after the King has his father killed; and nearly left for dead, he is discovered by Meg (Aury Krebs) who convinces him that the community needs him now that martial law has been instituted. Meg senses a leader in Robert when she watches him in action and suggests he rename himself Robin Hood. Krebs has a powerhouse voice and a strong demeanor, and her Meg keeps Robin on track as his fearless number two.

The relatively lengthy first Act introduces us to Hood’s merry band to varying effect. The adorable Much played by Billie Akin-Tyers becomes loyal to Hood, who kindly renames and rebrands her after her father’s cruelty in calling her “Not Much,” as in what she would amount to. Just as Meg recruits him, he relishes his chance to gather compassionate souls with a fighting spirit to counter the ruthlessness of the King and Sheriff.

The most exciting addition is Alan A’Dale played by Daniel Lopez who offers to narrate their adventures in song. At first, everyone is irritated about having their lives sung to them, much as we might be bothered by a social media obsessed teenager documenting our every move. But he more than proves his worth when his songs get under the King’s skin as news of Hood’s exploits reach throughout the Kingdom. When others travel through the forest seeking to join Robin, Alan giddily declares that his art has meaning, which although played for laughs underscores just how important the arts are in inspiring hope in troubled times.

Another standout is Hood’s cousin Scarlet played by Luke Antony Neville whose campy portrayal is an absolute hoot. He returns from a mission to London armed to the hilt with shopping bags but can quickly takes on Hood’s enemies with his bare fists.

It’s sometimes difficult to assess exactly what the status of the government is but the clever and highly apropos use of puppets as kings and bishops leans into the comedy and lightheartedness of the show despite what seems to have been a violent coup. If the show does go to Broadway, the throughlines of the leadership and the villains will need to be made clearer. The timing for a musical about a coup and a vanquishing hero is certainly ripe, and “Hood” inspires people to consider the nature of moral leadership.

The cast of “Hood” (photo by Frank Atura)

The merry band considers laying down their weapons and giving up the fight once Robin and Marian find their happily ever after, but they soon realize that are always wrongs that need righting. In a powerful flourish the cast implores us to “be Robin Hood” and several hold home-made protest signs that seem to reflect their own political values. Just as we may have believed that the moral arc was leaning toward justice, in a game of whack-a-mole, we have found that we must keep up the good fight to protect our civil rights. Be Robin Hood indeed!

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