A high-energy cast takes the audience on a rollicking journey in the Seattle Children's Theatre staging of "Robin Hood."

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THEATER REVIEW |

Four ragtag characters accost the audience, begging for spare change.

Since they’re panhandling mostly 9- and 10-year-olds packed into the Eve Alvord Theatre, they’re out of luck.

But after the beggars transform into the righteous bandits of Sherwood Forest (and their sneering enemies), they are showered with the real coin of the realm here: laughter, applause and squeals of delight.

This new production of “Robin Hood” is Seattle Children’s Theatre’s first visit with Robin and his merry men in some 25 years.

Using a swift-arrow, 90-minute (including intermission) script by Greg Banks, it arrives at a time when the have-nots in our society are making their voices heard against the rich and powerful, in the well-publicized “Occupy Wall Street” movement.

Allison Narver’s lively, compact staging nods to the present mood (and musical fads). But it’s the durable, ever-relevant legend of England’s most beloved outlaw, delivered with robust stagecraft and irreverent high jinks, that wins you over.

The high-energy cast of three strapping males (Hans Altwies, Basil Harris and David Quicksall) and one intrepid female (Hana Lass) call on make-believe to become an entire gang and their adversaries.

They brandish swords, rip through forest and dell, steal from the rich to benefit the poor and make mischief and romance, all with panache and verve.

Narver has granted them license to really cut up and make derring do, and they do.

Channeling Snidely Whiplash, Harris is smarmy with glee as Robin’s hated enemy, the Sherriff of Nottingham. Quicksall’s Prince John is a supercilious royal jerk who takes baths in gold loot.

As Robin Hood, Altwies is the perfect affable, athletic hero. He swings from ropes, escapes from lofty towers and tenderly woos Maid Marian, played by the lovely Lass, who doubles as a spunky lad in Robin’s posse. (There are a few chaste kisses.)

Injections of hip-hop dance and music pop up here and there, which seem a bit a gratuitous. Certainly they aren’t needed to capture the attention of the viewers, who at a recent school matinee roared their approval throughout, and obliged en masse when audience participation was requested.

Jennifer Lupton’s set of angled ramps, woodsy panels and notched trees makes an ingenious environment for all the action. When Robin leads a blindfolded Marian up and down a treacherous path to his encampment, you’re right along with them, sharing the adventure.

Misha Berson: mberson@seattletimes.com