Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
Popular in Great Britain, the holiday panto is a form of family-friendly musical comedy featuring slapstick sight gags, a gender-crossing dame, furry animal friends, lots of audience interaction, and a plot based on a fable or folk tale. Little Red Robin Hood starts 15 years after Robin Hood was killed, his band of do-good outlaws forced to scatter and go into hiding. Now that there is no one to protect Sherwood Forest, Lady Nottingham (the late sheriff's widow) and her goons are going to have all the animals hunted for their fashionable fur! Fortunately, a young woman wearing a red cape and armed with a yew wood bow is ready to take on the baddies. Amelia, also known as Little Red, has some help along the way from Friar Tuck, Maid Marian, Robin's mother Maud, and a trio of woodland critters.
The entire ensemble is strong and their easy give and take with the audience is an example of what makes this holiday tradition so special. Viveca Chow brims with youthful vibrancy as Amelia. Tom Teti (a member of People's Light since its inception in 1974) is very funny as grumpy old Friar Tuck. Mark Lazar embraces his inner granny and brings down the house with his cross-dressing antics as Maud. Eli Lynn is hilariously high energy as Skippy the Chipmunk, and Christopher Patrick Mullen is risible as nervous newspaper editor Floyd Flynn Finkelstein. A great story needs great villains and Mary Elizabeth Scallen is positively devious as Lady Nottingham. Her reluctant sidekick, a big bad wolf named Lupo, channels a 1940s gangster with moxie.
Richard St. Clair's costumes are adorable. In keeping with the panto spirit, the set design by Michael Schweikardt is uncomplicated and inviting. Mike Inwood's lighting is top notch.
Little Red Robin Hood is an ideal way to introduce musical theater to the young people in your life. In the welcoming and generous spirit of the panto, People's Light is offering opportunities including a "shush-free," relaxed performance with American Sign Language interpretation, a family-friendly panto pride, open captioned performances, and half-price Access Nights.
Little Red Robin Hood: A Musical Panto runs through January 5, 2020, on the Leonard C. Haas Stage, People's Light, 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern PA. For tickets and information, visit www.peopleslight.org or call the box office at 610-644-3500.