With colored lights on the set and a smoky haze in the room that makes beams of light visible, the set for Robin Hood at Corvallis High School looks more like a rock concert than a school play.
Which is pretty fitting for a show that mashes together "Robin Hood – The Somewhat True Tales" with liberal doses of Prince’s music. In the show, Prince’s music plays in the background, is featured in lip-sync-heavy dance routines and even fills time as the two-story set is rotated to switch from a forest to a castle scene.
Josh Hiser, a member of the Corvallis High class of 2009 who is now a professional lighting and set designer, came back to do lighting design for the show.
“My main goal was to design a rock concert and layer in play lighting on top of that,” said Hiser.
And rock show lighting means more color and more flash, he said.
Laura Beck-Ard, the longtime theater director for the Corvallis School District, said this is not the first time the theater has done a classic play with a rock twist: in 2010 the district did a production of “The Three Musketeers” featuring the music of Queen.
“That show is all about a queen, so we did Queen. This show is all about a prince, so we picked Prince.”
Beck-Ard said the mid-valley has a market for 1980s nostalgia in theater productions.
“We have found that in Corvallis people love a classic, but they love a classic with a twist,” she said.
Beck-Ard added that the music adds a little flash to the well-worn tale.
“Everybody knows this show. To be perfectly honest, 'Robin Hood' by itself is kinda dull, but we can remedy that by remaking it as a rock and light show.”
The show’s performers break the fourth wall with cheeky abandon, and this version of "Robin Hood" has a lot more jokes than other versions.
Chris Smith, a Santiam Christian High School junior who plays Prince John, said the show also mixes traditional medieval garb with 1980s fashion. His own costume includes leggings that would not look out of place in a more traditional production and a jacket and a ruffle shirt worthy of genre-defying Prince himself.
Smith said the music is added into the show in natural places that fit thematically with what’s happening in the show. For example, in Prince John’s first appearance in the show, on an elaborate throne surrounded by fawning fan girls, he struts his way into a dance routine to “My Name is Prince.”
“The music really sequences into and out of the show well. It flows really well.”
Smith said the rehearsal schedule for the show was just five weeks, which meant the cast has been putting in long days to get the show ready.
Smith said early in the rehearsal schedule, the cast struggled with the comedic timing of the frequent jokes and on bringing the music in naturally. Although Smith has been in five previous Corvallis School District shows, he said much of the cast is new to theater, which added to the challenge.
But they overcame this through sheer effort, he said.
“It really works now, but at first it was not clicking,” he said.
Jessica Wohlwend, a College Hill High School junior who plays Maid Marian, said the music added to the show matches the underlying themes well.
“Lots of people get caught on the concept that it’s set to the music of Prince, but it surprisingly works,” she said. “I was skeptical at first, but in the end it does tie together. There’s not too much added, and it’s balanced in so that it works.”
She said the production is worth seeing because it’s not a typical production.
“We’ve added a whole new element to a classic play,” she said.
Nate McCullough, a Corvallis High School senior who plays the Sheriff of Nottingham, said the final product works really well.
“It’s going to add something to (“Robin Hood.”) It adds some funk, some groove people can listen to with this show.”