The Sheriff of Nottingham (Mark Trussell) fights with Robin Hood (Shaleen Toney) in the pantomime

Update: You’ve never seen Robin Hood quite like this

Asparagus Community Theatre presents the British pantomime, Robin Hood and His Merry Men, as its season opener.

He robs from the rich and gives to the poor.

That dashing figure Robin Hood also looks pretty darn good in a pair of tights (we’re talking Errol Flynn here and not Russell Crowe).

Asparagus Community Theatre is about to turn Armstrong’s Centennial Theatre into Sherwood Forrest when it presents Robin Hood and His Merry Men as its season opener.

Audiences can expect that tough damsel in distress Maid Marian, Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck, Little John, as well as the evil Prince John and his henchman, the Sheriff of Nottingham, and of course Robin Hood himself, but with a twist.

This version of the story is a pantomime, so expect men in ladies’ clothing, and vice versa, over-the-top theatrics, silly songs, a glittering disco ball, as well as audience participation.

“This is a spoof based loosely on Robin Hood... It’s not as naughty as Mel Brooks’ Men in Tights, but there are men in tights in the show. The boys are stepping up for it,” said director Sheryl Hamilton. “This is more Monty Pythonesque with that absurd British humour.”

Written by British playwrights Robin Bales and Jonathan Hales, who also wrote the panto Jack and the Beanstalk and were the script doctors for the last Star Wars movies, Robin Hood and His Merry Men is a hilarious take on the old legend.

Robin (played here by Shaleen Toney – yes, a female), and his very camp followers, the Merry Men, must fight off the two villains in the evil Prince John and the even eviller Sheriff of Nottingham (Mark Trussell). There’s also an outrageous dame, Jemima Gusset (Raymond Alexis), and of course Maid Marian herself (Mahalia Michael).

The show also features the authors’ original lyrics to some well known songs, including two by The Village People (cue the disco ball!)

This is Hamilton’s first time directing for Asparagus, or any other community theatre for that matter. She moved to Armstrong four years ago from Vancouver, and previously lived in New York City. She now teaches at the Okanagan School of Massage, and says theatre is her way to work with a creative team.

That team includes Hamilton’s husband, Bruce Turnbull, who is a professional artist and has designed the sets for Robin Hood.

“(Asparagus member) Mandy Penner, who is on the script selection committee, recommended this script to us,” said Hamilton, who stage managed Fertile Ground, an original play written by Asparagus member Mark Trussell, last season.

Hamilton has also written her own script, which she hopes will get produced one day.

“This time, they were looking for a director, so I thought, ‘why not jump on board?’” she said. “I feel like I’ve found a third arm I didn’t know I had.”

Hamilton isn’t kidding. Robin Hood is no small feat. Thirteen of the 26 cast members are under the age of 12, two of whom play animals.

So much for that old adage, never work with kids or animals, she laughed.

“There are also four families in the show together, but luckily everyone is getting along. Our last scene has everyone on stage together. It’s a good thing our stage is well built,” said Hamilton, adding, “My favourite thing in the process of directing has been watching these people come to life in their characters. I see it in their eyes. Everyone is having fun.”

The audience, too, is sure to have fun when Robin Hood and His Merry Men opens at the Centennial Theatre, with nightly shows Dec. 3, 4, 5, 10 , 11, and 12 at 7:30 p.m. Matinées take place Dec. 5 and 12 at 1 p.m. Tickets can be reserved by calling The Guy Next Door at 250--546-0950. (Please note corrected phone number.)




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