Huntington Beach Academy for the Performing Arts back on stage with ‘Robin Hood and the White Arrow’

Robin Hood and his Merry Men perform during the  production of "Robin Hood and the White Arrow."
Robin Hood and his Merry Men perform during the Huntington Beach Academy for the Performing Arts production of “Robin Hood and the White Arrow.”
(Courtesy of Nancy’s Portraits)

Olivia Aniceto was just about ready to play her dream role of Belle in “Beauty and the Beast.”

Then, the world changed.

Olivia, then a Huntington Beach High junior, found out at a March 12, 2020, dress rehearsal that the Huntington Beach Academy for the Performing Arts performance would not go on as scheduled the following day. The coronavirus pandemic had begun.

“It was kind of heartbreaking, for me at least,” Olivia said. “That was my dream role, and then all of a sudden everything is just getting shut down. It was just crazy. But you live and move on, I guess.”

A year later, she is again playing a leading role. The academy is putting on a modified musical, “Robin Hood and the White Arrow,” outdoors at the Rose Center Theater in Westminster. Olivia is one of two actresses to play Maid Marian, along with fellow Huntington Beach High senior Rachel Bronder.

The performance on Sunday — the day Orange County moved into the red tier — was the first live production that academy has put on since COVID-19 began. Tickets are available for the second weekend of Robin Hood shows, on Friday through Sunday at 7 p.m., at

Tim Nelson, the HBAPA musical theater department chair who composed the show’s music and is directing, said it has been like a roller coaster trying to get the show to the stage. But it is important, as it serves as a fundraiser for the department, along with a virtual silent auction that runs through March 28.

“We’re just trying to get as much word out as possible to help keep everything moving along for the kids,” Nelson said.

“With COVID, I have to keep the cast size down so there’s space backstage. Also, as we were staging the show, all the things likes hugs and kisses can’t happen with Robin and Marian. Holding hands can’t happen, and they all wear gloves. So, it’s been another challenge just doing the staging with COVID requirements, but it looks beautiful. It all comes across well.”

Robin Hood, left, is played by Sean Kato, while Rachel Bronder is one of two actresses to play Marian.
Robin Hood, left, is played by Marina High School junior Sean Kato while Huntington Beach High School senior Rachel Bronder is one of two people to play Marian.
(Courtesy of Nancy’s Portraits)

Nelson said the show has a cast of 39 actors, but only about 20 will perform during any given show. The audience is socially distanced in pods, and performing outside has also proven interesting. Since daylight saving-time started last weekend, the show starts while it is still light outside.

Still, Nelson said his young actors, who are masked during the performance, have handled it like pros.

“In some cases, it’s made the students become better physical actors,” he said. “You have to do so much more full-body acting when your mouth is covered with a mask. You have to express with your eyes, and your hands. They’ve risen to that occasion too, and I’m proud of them for that.”

Sean Kato, a junior at Marina High School, plays Robin Hood. Sean said getting on stage and performing again has provided a rush for him.

“Not only the performance aspect of it, but rehearsing as well,” Sean said.

“One of the reasons I do love doing theater so much is being able to be a part of an ensemble of actors that shares common interests with me. We work collectively to tell a story. With Robin Hood, there’s themes of hope and finding that light at the end of the tunnel, which is very much relevant today. I think there’s been a lot of darkness in the past year.”

Rachel Bronder, one of the two actresses who plays Marian, said trying to act in a musical outside has definitely been a fun experience.

“You have to work with what you’re given,” Rachel said. “A car horn might go off on the next street, or a tree branch might fall on the stage … I’m just happy to do another show.”

Support our coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.