Entertainment » Theatre

Oh Those Merry Men! :: Ken Ludwig's Robin Hood

by Lisa Lipsey
Saturday Jul 15, 2017

Comedy and musical genius Ken Ludwig, whose "Baskerville" brought Sherlock Holmes and Mr. Watson to The Old Globe, is back with a brand new Globe-commissioned world premiere comedy about another iconic duo: Robin Hood and Little John!

Under the direction of Jessica Stone ("Arms and the Man," "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike") and packed with thrills, romance, laughs, with great characters like Friar Tuck and Maid Marian, all those merry men of the forest, "Robin Hood!" tells the timeless story of a hero of the people who takes on the powers that be. The theatre bills the production as one filled with swashbuckling fun!

The Old Globe announced the remaining productions in its 2017 Summer Season, including Ludwig's "Robin Hood!"

"Ken is back with the Robin Hood play he's been wanting to write for years," comments Artistic Director Barry Edelstein in a press statement "and it's sure to be one of his funniest and most riotous works."

The Summer Shakespeare Festival will include Globe and television favorite Robert Sean Leonard (the Globe's "Pygmalion," television's "House, M.D." on Fox) in the title role of Richard II, directed by Erica Schmidt.

Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet follows on the outdoor Festival Stage, bringing Shakespeare's classic to life under the San Diego stars. Edelstein will direct one of the greatest plays ever written - revenge thriller, ghost story, psychological drama, political epic, family saga - all packed with unforgettable characters, theatrical masterstrokes and world-famous lines.

Now, let's get back to Ken Ludwig and "Robin Hood!" Ludwig is a two-time Olivier Award-winning playwright whose work is performed throughout the world in more than thirty countries and over twenty languages. He has written twenty-four plays and musicals, with six Broadway productions and seven in London's West End. His Tony-winning play "Lend Me A Tenor" was called "One of the classic comedies of the 20th century" by The Washington Post. Other plays and musicals include "Crazy For You" (five years on Broadway, Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Best Musical), "Moon Over Buffalo" (Broadway and West End), "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" (Broadway), "Treasure Island" (West End), "Twentieth Century" (Broadway), "Leading Ladies," "Shakespeare in Hollywood," "The Game's Afoot," "The Fox on the Fairway," "The Three Musketeers," "The Beaux'Stratagem," "Baskerville" and "A Comedy of Tenors." His critically-acclaimed adaptation of Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express" premiered this season to sold out houses at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, and his newest play is, of course, "Robin Hood!"

Ludwig has received commissions from the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Old Globe and the Bristol Old Vic, and he is a Sallie B. Goodman Fellow of the McCarter Theatre. His book "How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare" (Random House) won the Falstaff Award for Best Shakespeare Book, and his essays are published by the Yale Review.

When asked about what inspires him, Ludwig said, "My favorite plays are virtually all comedies. They start with the great Shakespeare comedies and my favorites there are: 'Twelfth Night,' 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' and 'Much Ado About Nothing.' Each one launched a separate tradition of comedy that exists to this day, and each one is simply jaw-droppingly great. After Shakespeare, you have to jump to the late Restoration for any really great plays. From the 18th Century, it's Goldsmith's 'She Stoops To Conquer' -- first and foremost, after Shakespeare I'd say it's the greatest comedy ever written."

"Once again, there's a big leap in years and for me the next great comedy is 'Dandy Dick' and 'The Magistrate' by Sir Arthur Wing Pinero. Right after
Pinero come the great Shaw comedies that I love so much: 'Arms and the Man,' 'The Devil's Disciple' and 'Pygmalion,' then in about the same time period is 'The Importance of Being Earnest' by Wilde. I dearly love the big four by Chekhov, can we call them comedies? Well, Chekhov does. I love some of the shorter burlesques as well, especially 'The Bear' and 'The Marriage Proposal.' "

Going further into the 20th Century, Ludwig notes, "I particularly love Noel Coward's 'Private Lives,' 'Hay Fever' and 'Blithe Spirit.' Then there's Terence Rattigan's 'Harlequinade,' Wilder's 'The Matchmaker,' JB Priestley's 'When We Are Married' and I'm a huge Stoppard fan. I love especially 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead' and 'On The Razzle.' I'd say that every single one of these plays embodies the true spirit of comedy. I reread them and about 25 other comedies, all the time."

At this time in his career, Ludwig tends to write one new project per year. "It usually takes me a month to come down from the last project. Then I lock myself in a room and just think for about three months. During this time, I doodle on a legal pad, then start writing bits of dialogue and ideas for plots and themes. Usually, after three or so months, I'm ready to write something that vaguely looks like a play or a libretto and that takes about a month or two from beginning to end. After that, it's a matter of rewriting. The rest of my year is taken up with meeting colleagues about new projects and, of
course, getting involved in new productions around the country and abroad."

What was Ludwig's big break? "I had written a number of plays that were being performed little by little, Off-Off-Broadway and at small regional theatres, when I met a wonderful English director named David Gilmore. He was interested in directing 'Sullivan & Gilbert' and one day, when he was about to fly home to England, he asked what I had written lately so that he could get a better feel for my style of writing. I gave him a copy of 'Lend Me
A Tenor,' which I had recently finished writing and had just been produced at a small summer theatre in New Hampshire, called The American Stage Festival." (At the time the play was entitled "Opera Buffa" which is Italian for "comic opera.")

"A few days later, David [Gilmore] called me from England and said that he really liked the new play and would like to direct it... and that he would like to show it to a producer-friend of his. Being a compete jerk, I wanted to sound important, so I said, 'Oh, I don't know if you should. I do have some interest from some good producers here in the States.'Then, rather absently, I added, 'What's your producer-friend's name?' And he answered, 'Andrew Lloyd Webber.' When I got off the floor I said, 'Yeah. Go ahead and show him the play.'"

Ludwig recalls it was two days later that the phone rang, "It was Andrew Lloyd Webber - honestly - he said he wanted to produce my play in
the West End. Two weeks later I was on a plane for London. Six months later the play opened at the Globe (now the Gielgud) Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, directed by David Gilmore. Andrew then went on to produce the play in New York, with coproducer Marty Starger. I'm proud of the fact that Andrew took such an interest in one of my early works. I'm equally proud of the fact that I paid my dues, by working my tail off and writing a number of plays before that," recalls Ludwig.

"Robin Hood!" runs Saturday, July 22 through Sunday, August 27 at the Old Globe's Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre.

"Richard II" runs through Saturday, July 15. "Guys and Dolls" runs Sunday, July 2 through Sunday, August 13. "Hamlet" is Saturday, August 12 through Sunday, September 10.

For tickets and more information, call 619.234.5623 or go to theoldglobe.org

Copyright Rage Monthly. For more articles from Rage visit www.ragemonthly.com


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