Arcadia Stage / April 25-June 2440 N. 2nd St., Philadelphia, PA 19106.
Today was the opening day of Robin Hood at the Arden Children’s Theater in Old City. Honestly it was and amazing morning to spend with Henry. Arden has this raw quality about it that I love and that I think makes it easier for kids to identify with. With this being our second performance we have seen there Arden is now a Hipster Henry Top Pick. The stage is floor level with the seats on risers surrounding it on three sides. The floor of the stage is that shredded rubber playground material which is surrounded by tubes and cylinders painted various shades of green to represent the forest. Robin Hood and his Band of Merry Men appeared in matching washed out, grey, American Apparel hoodies and skinny jeans (sorry guys but that is totally what you were wearing). It was modern and completely believable all at the same time. If someone told me these guys were in a band that was going to perform in No Libs tonight I totally would have believed it. The cast is always small at the Arden so you have the actors playing double and triple duty which also adds to the interest. My favorite part was when Maid Marian and the Sheriff of Nottingham were in a horse-drawn carriage. The carriage was actually a set of swings they sat on. As they swung in unison the clippity clop of the horses filled the theater. Arden does not deliver the story to your doorstep with costumes and literal translations. It is like they turn it upside down and give just enough framework for your imagination to take over.
Hands down the best character is the evil Price John. He is this cross between Elton John, Sally Jesse Rafael and the Mad Hatter. In other words you have to see it to get it. The first time you meet him he comes out in a a tub of money with a towel on his head, a giant gold $ chain, white tank top and huge gold, crocodile patterned sneakers (sourced from LA via EBAY). The actor clearly is having the most fun out of all his peers on stage.
Afterwards you get to do a Q&A with the actors and then meet them. Henry got to cozy up to Maid Marion. The actors are amazing with the kids and it is a really special end to a great show.
Notes on Taking a Toddler?
* Since Henry (2.5 y.o) did well at Charlotte’s Web I thought we would give this a shot. This performance was on the Arcadia Stage which is even more intimate than the main stage on the first level. When I saw this my heart did flutter a bit knowing that any false toddler move would be picked up by everyone in the audience and on stage. We went to a 10:00 a.m. performance which was actually perfect because this is when all the school kids come. You cannot ask for a better buffer. When you call to get the tickets they tell you that these performances are for school trips but they do sell the remaining seats to the public. In fact they reserve the seats in the front for the general public during these designated “school shows.” We were surrounded on all sides by what seemed to 8-10 year olds but we were right in front so Henry had no problem seeing the show.
* I did cheat and bring the iPad for the down time before the play started and intermission. Worked like a charm. Don’t have an iPad? Pick up a new sticker book to whip out.
* The play is a little “crash, bang, boom” in the beginning as you meet Robin Hood and he is saving a boy after his family has been killed by the Sheriff of Nottingham. Now don’t tense up. All of this is pretty subtle because it is more narrated then performed. He never asked to sit in my lap or looked away if that gives you an idea on how a 2.5 year old handled the more “intense” parts. Henry did not really have time to be scared because a funny part always came right after a “serious” part. At one point I think I even caught Henry laughing and slapping his knee. It was great for him to be able to hear the other kids laughing and clapping. He took his cues from them and it helped him be more interactive.
* There is a part where Robin Hood calls Little John and “ass.” Actually he said it twice and it was really funny to hear how shocked the school kids were.
* Henry is probably 35 lbs and he is almost able to keep his seat down but I had my hand on it most the time.
* Bring a snack for intermission b/c the snack bar is not open during the morning performances. I also just saw that for the night performances you can pre-order dinner to eat in the cafe…that is music to my ears. Find out more about it here.
* I did try to find some kid’s books and movies about Robin Hood to give Henry some reference before we went but everything is so dated. After seeing all the Pixar movies Disney’s animated, vintage Robin Hood was painful to watch. Just go …they will catch on.