Robin Hood: The Musical

It’s exciting when a new show emerges from our local pool of talent, and even more exciting when audiences actually show up to watch it, as they are for “Robin Hood: The Musical” at the SCERA.

And so it is with great pleasure that I report the show to be delightfully entertaining. In terms of the writing (by Tony Cobb and Karrol Cobb), it’s hardly a step behind the professional shows we’ve seen. The script is actually better than the performance, which is opposite of what I expected.

The structure of the show is traditional, and it feels comfortable to those of us raised on musicals. This is not two local wannabes trying to imitate a Broadway show, though; it’s an honest-to-goodness real, live musical. If you hadn’t heard the authors were from Utah County, you probably wouldn’t have guessed it.

Karrol Cobb’s music is top-notch, with tunes that are stirring, melodic and memorable. Not every song is a winner, but there are far more hits than misses. The anthemic “Sherwood” is a stand-out, as is the dark “London.”

Tony Cobb wrote the lyrics, which are clever and keep the story moving. Some of the feats of rhyming are truly impressive, recalling the best of W.S. Gilbert or Stephen Sondheim. Most of them tend toward fast-paced patter and jaunty wordplay.

At times, the lyrics are almost too cute. “The Sheriff Raised the Tariff” has some of that, and “Feather in My Cap” has so many rhymes for “cap” that it becomes funny. I also roll my eyes at: “How can a fellow get ahead in life/Without losing the one he’s got?,” though I confess I’ve been humming it all morning.

That’s the writing. Now for the production.

First, what is it with SCERA and lights? I’ve never seen such a badly lit production. Get a good lighting system, or quit charging money for shows we can’t see.

Anyway, Tony Cobb has a gorgeous, passionate voice and plays the Sheriff of Nottingham with gleeful wickedness.

The most memorable character will be the sheriff’s henchman, the good-hearted but cowardly constable, played by Jamison Noorlander, who earns laughs calmly and expertly every time he walks on stage.

Other stand-outs are Natasha Brown as the feisty widow Ingrid, and Christopher Holmes, showing a great deal of stage presence as Will Scarlet and making the most of a smaller role.

As Robin Hood, Ken Foody does well, but never quite emerges as the show’s central character. There is nothing wrong with Foody’s performance; there just needs to be more of it. As it is, he is overshadowed by several other characters who seem more interesting. His Maid Marian, normally played by Lisa Higbee, was sweetly played by understudy Lara Johnson on Monday.

Much of the cast has little experience, and it shows in all the nonsense going on that detracts from the professionalism of the show. Just because you’re not being paid doesn’t mean you don’t have to behave like a professional. A show this good deserves better treatment.

Should you go? Yes. Technical and performance problems aside, it’s a marvelously entertaining show full of humor and life.

Astute readers may recall this show having its first production at the Franciscan Center in 2000, a review of which caused all kinds of commotion and made me look not at all forward to seeing it again. Turns out the script is pretty good; it was the production that was second-rate at the Franciscan.