On Theater: Home-grown musical 'White Arrow' hits the target

You've seen Errol Flynn's "Robin Hood," Frank Sinatra's "Robin and the Seven Hoods" and Mel Brooks' "Robin Hood: Men in Tights."

More novels, plays and movies have been written about Robin Hood than just about any other historical figure. Yet in this entire oeuvre, there's never been one quite like "Robin Hood and the White Arrow."

For one thing, it's a home-grown original, written in the early 1980s by Kent Johnson (book) and Tim Nelson (music). Longtime local collaborators, they unveiled the show in 1985 under Johnson's direction at the Newport Theater Arts Center, where the Daily Pilot's theater critic proclaimed it the "best community theater production of the year."

That same critic (yours truly) sat in on a matinee of the latest production of "White Arrow" Sunday at Westminster's Rose Center Theater, this time directed by Nelson, and remained impressed — once the theater's sound engineer lowered the decibel volume on the recorded score. This is a unique and fascinating take on the renowned legend with a kicker of an ending that can't even be hinted at here.

Most of the familiar elements of the original story are present — Robin's joust over a stream with Little John, Prince John's archery contest devised to trap Robin, etc. What the Johnson-Nelson treatment adds is a hugely impressive musical score and some fervent gypsy girl choreography (by Diane Makas).

The "White Arrow" is an imagined plot device — that the appearance of said bit of weaponry will signal the end of the prince's tyrannical rule and the return of his brother, the rightful King Richard, who's off crusading. Then there's Maid Marian, who in this version provides Robin with an heir.

Robin himself is given a powerful and musically superlative interpretation by Dirk Rogers, who possesses both the necessary swagger and the respect-worthy qualities of a commander to fit into this legendary character's boots. Laura Pasarow, as Marian, is a tiny actress with a glorious voice who'll be starring on the same stage in March when she weds the show's combat choreographer, Edward Bangasser.

The despotic Prince John is enacted with authoritative flourish by Chris Caputo, whose solo, "A Loon is Crying," is among the show's vocal highlights. Vincent Aniceto portrays his evil toady, the sheriff of Nottingham, with appropriate oiliness and rancor.

Marian's maid, Sophie, offers veteran scene stealer Mary Murphy-Nelson a choice musical number — "Good Old Fashioned Chivalry" with Friar Tuck (the solid Joe Matarazzo). Erin Bull scores equally well in her ensemble piece "Brighten Your Day" with the palace domestics — in which she entices the humorless head maid (Dawn Vasco) into the action.

Among the Merry Men, Jon Gale is a stalwart Little John, Jacob Gonzalez is an energetic Will Scarlet and Brion Kerry is a feisty Midge, the miller. Devin Cortez enriches the show as its musical narrator, Allan-A-Dale.

Makas' swirling choreography is particularly well executed by a super-charged gypsy ensemble, headed by Hayleigh Green in a brief but lustrous performance.

"Robin Hood and the White Arrow" will thrill, excite and, possibly, shock its audiences. The show is dark this (Thanksgiving) weekend, but returns for performances the first two weekends of December at the Rose Center Theater in Westminster.

TOM TITUS covers the local theater scene for the Independent and its sister paper, the Daily Pilot.

If You Go

What: "Robin Hood and the White Arrow"

Where: Rose Center Theater, 4140 All American Way, Westminster

When: Performances will resume on the weekend of Dec. 2 and 3. Shows will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. on Sundays through Dec. 11.

Cost: $20-$25

Call: (714) 793-1150

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