Robin and Hoods Hit Big at Old Globe
Review by Linda Hodges, Broadway Magazine
Just as the great Sammy Cahn wrote, “Love is lovelier the second time around,” the 1963 Rat Pack film “Robin and the 7 Hoods” is so much lovelier its second time around as the stage musical of the same name by Rupert Holmes. This show dazzles.
The film was a prop piece with a collapsible plot trumped up for Sinatra and the gang to have an excuse to work and play together. But this new musical spin is another story altogether. Literally. Holmes kept the Robin Hood theme, the rat pack cool, and the swinging sounds of Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen – and nothing else – creating a story and a show that is entertainment at its freshest, funniest and most spectacular.
Summoning the chic, the swagger and the swing of the early 60’s, the show opens with Chicago club and restaurant owner Robbo (Eric Schneider), singing the classic song, “My Kind of Town (Chicago is).” You simply couldn’t ask for a classier opening number. Taking a drag from his cigarette, Schneider delivers the piece with an easy pizzazz as the ensemble joins him to finish out the tune. Fully clad in the sophisticated fashion of the day the costumes alone (Gregg Barnes) are enough to make you nostalgic for that smooth and sultry time.
Robbo is a somewhat reformed hood, now trying to make good by going legit, but having a little trouble with the transition. He and his boys, including second-in-command Little John (played to absolute comedic and charming, bad-boy perfection by Will Chase), are confounded in this effort time and time again by police lieutenant Nottingham (Adam Heller) who continuingly trumps up charges as an excuse to shut down Robbo’s club and force him out of business. The lieutenant is on the payroll of one P.J. Sullivan (Rick Holmes), another club owner and local gangster boss who runs the town and is willing to do whatever it takes to run Robbo and his merry men out of town!
Enter local TV anchor, and crusader against crime and corruption, Marian Archer (Kelly Sullivan). Determined to expose Sullivan for the hood he really is, Marian uses her television show, Target Chicago, and her connections, in her effort to put the boss behind bars. Seizing on Sullivan’s next target – Robbo – she works to get him on her show. Robbo would like P.J. out of the way as well – but chooses more nefarious means at his disposal. He and Little John hatch a heist, robbing P.J.’s club (located directly behind Robbo’s) and then giving away the loot so the crime can’t be traced back to them - and in the process becoming unwitting local heroes promptly compared to the legendary Robin Hood.
What follows is a terrific tap dance number, lead by hood Willie Scarlatti (flawlessly and amazingly played by Jeffrey Schecter), who has been instructed to walk the streets of Chicago dispensing the dough.
In these tough economic times there was something very satisfying about seeing money handed out to the working stiffs on the street and something even sweeter about knowing that it was taken from toadies who take advantage of the poor. As money rained down like confetti in a ticker-tape parade the audience flipped over this show-stopping number.
The talented, Tony nominated director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw outdid himself in both of these roles giving direction and focus to actors and dancers alike and creating a synergy that was nothing less than theater magic.
Love and romance, intrigue and incomparable music abound, as the story continues. Amy Spanger is positively marvelous as Alana O’Dell, the long-suffering, longing-for-a-ring girlfriend of Will Chase’s Little John. Their tottering romance is played for laughs as the at-odds couple sing “Call Me Irresponsible” – but her slow and angst-ridden reprise reveal her emotional depth and passion for this man with a wandering eye. Kelly Sullivan is also particularly good as the do-good Marian whose emotions are also taken for a ride by the charming, ready-to-reform Robbo.
In a Broadway-bound show of this caliber, the whole production team deserves credit for creating the magic that happens on stage. Sound Design by John Shivers was a joy; clear and balanced. Lighting design by Kenneth Posner was inspired and scenic design by Robert Brill could not have been more creative. The versatile set made good use of the space, while the colors, textures and fabrics of the sets worked together to enhance the show. Costume design by Greg Barnes captured the era but went several steps further with its whimsical quality and fun interpretations. The 60’s stewardess costumes alone were worth the price of admission.
John McDaniel (Music supervisor/Vocal and Incidental Arrangements), Bill Elliott (Orchestrator) Mark Hummel (Music Director) and David Chase (Dance Music Arranger) all deserve credit for adapting the superb Cahn/Van Heusen songbook to the theatrical stage.
Tony award winning book writer Rupert Holmes seamlessly melded the music to the story and made it seem as if it was always meant to be that way.
The legend of Robin Hood lives on in this swank and swinging show. For those too young to know the songs first-hand, you’re in for a treat! And for those for whom these songs are old nostalgic friends, I’m here to tell you that Sammy Cahn was right. Love (as well as this book and score) are lovelier the second time around.
Robin and the 7 Hoods runs through August 29th at The Old Globe in San Diego.
Tickets are available at www.theoldglobe.org/.
Book by Rupert Holmes
Lyrics by Sammy Cahn
Music by Jimmy Van Heusen
Directed and Choreographed
by Casey Nicholaw
WORLD PREMIERE MUSICAL
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