“Welcome, one and all,” says Will Scarlet, with a broad smile and a bow, “to Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre!”
“Every Saturday,” says Allyn-a-Dale, “Will and I and our friends from the story world of ‘The Outlaws of Avalon ’ trilogy—”
“Coming one of these days to a book retailer near you!”
“—Will take at random two of the suggestions gleaned from you, our gentle audience, and incorporate them into… well, the sort of tomfoolery Will calls entertainment.”
“So make yourselves comfortable,” says Will, “as we now present to you: ‘Hounded Heroes’!”
[The curtain rises on the interior of the Antichristmas Beast’s tower – for a change, set up on a platform raised high over stage left. A handheld mirror shakes in the clawed hand of the Beast, portrayed by Little John.]
Little John/Beast: Previously in this blasted serial fairytale, my flying monkey captain defected to my enemies, and the Puffwolf sold me out for a Gant-o’-the-Lute concert. Now Jack Snow has taken possession of the singing sword, which shall surely mean my doom if wielded against me! I must at all costs prevent him from reaching my castle! [raises arms high over his horned head; his voice booms like thunder as the lights flicker and flash ] By the dark powers vested in me, in the name of all evil things anti-Christmas, unleash the Baskerville hounds!
[Across the stage, Allyn as Jack Snow, Will Scarlet as Peter “The Woodsman” Pan, Marion Hood as Wendy Darling-Pan, and Robin Hood as Simian the aforementioned flying monkey enter the scene.]
Will/Woodsman: Three miles to the Beast’s castle, and all’s well!
[Through a trapdoor just a step ahead of the players, up spring a pair of simplistic but rather terrifying puppets resembling English mastiffs that happen to be glowing a ghoulish green. Ferocious snarling abounds.]
Will/Woodsman: I spoke too soon.
Marion/Wendy: Baskerville hounds! How are we to defeat them?
Robin/Simian: Allow me.
[Robin whips out and slips on the magic britches introduced in Act 11, simultaneously throwing off his furry coat with its attached wings and tail which he turns inside-out to become a dark blue trench coat. He winds a scarf around the turned-up collar and affects a haughty, high-functioning-sociopathic expression.]
Allyn/Jack: Heavens above, he’s a dead ringer for Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes!
Robin/Simian Cumberbatch [coolly ]: I am Sherlock Holmes. And as any Shelockian could tell you, Baskerville hounds, I’ve not only dealt with your kind before, but ultimately emerged victorious. [scathingly ] You would do well to crawl back into the hole from which you came, and inform your master that his end comes without mercy. For we may be on the side of the angels, but don’t think for one second that any of us are one of them.
[Whimpering in fear, the hound puppets slink back through the trapdoor.]
Will/Woodsman: Do you know, Simian, when you’re not being an insufferable coward, you’re actually somewhat amazing?
Robin/Simian Cumberbatch [with a small smile ]: I may have some information to that effect stored in my mind palace, yes.
[Meanwhile, up in the tower…]
Little John/Beast: A thousand curses! I need a Plan B! [more light/sound effects ] By the dark powers vested in me, in the name of all evil things anti-Christmas, unleash the ice hounds!
[Back across the stage…]
Will/Woodsman: Two miles to the Beast’s castle, and all’s well!
[Expert light-‘n’-shadow-puppetry thrown onto the backdrop creates the distinct impression of huge, coldly glittering canines. Blood-chilling growling abounds.]
Will/Woodsman: I stand corrected.
Marion/Wendy: Ice hounds! How do we handle this?
Allyn/Jack: Allow me. [sings ]
Firebird, firebird, hither fly at speed.
Bring your light, blazing bright, that we may proceed.
[From above, a pyrotechnic bird puppet swoops across the stage. Their howls growing fainter by the moment, the ice hound shadows melt to nothing.]
Will/Woodsman: Well, you made swift work of that!
Allyn/Jack [with a grin ]: The cold never bothered me anyway.
[Up in the tower…]
Little John/Beast: Ohhh, hell, oh— [snaps his fingers ] Hell! That’s it! [light/sound effects ] By the dark powers vested in me, in the name of all evil things anti-Christmas, unleash… Cerberus!
[Across the stage…]
Will/Woodsman: One mile to the Beast’s castle, and—
[From the stage left wings, what should roll in but an enormous mechanical construction of three-headed monstrositude. Horrific roaring abounds.]
Will/Woodsman: Never mind.
All is so far from well.
Marion/Wendy: Cerberus the hellhound?! How in the world are we supposed to deal with that? [turns to Robin ]
Robin/Simian: [turns to Allyn ]
Allyn/Jack: [turns to Will ]
Will/Woodsman: Yeah, I got nothin’.
[The four huddle together in fear as Cerberus draws nearer, three pairs of red eyes burning like hellfire, until a howling gust from off stage right blows in, blasting Cerberus back the way he came.]
Our Heroes/The Beast: What the…??
[Enter the Puffwolf, portrayed by Edgwyn Wyle.]
Edgwyn/Puffwolf: Just a quick puff to thank you for scoring me that private concert from Gant-o’-the-Lute. It rocked! As did the opening act. You ever hear of the Rock Minstrel?
Allyn/Jack [pulling a face ]: Not that screeching bardolater who goes up against the Merry Men’s minstrel in a ballad-off in “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”?
Will/Woodsman: Sheesh, I know you’ve had your musical differences, but is that sort of name-calling really necessary?
Allyn/Jack: “Bardolater” isn’t a slur, Woodsman. It just means someone who idolizes Shakespeare.
Will/Woodsman: Oh. Well, hello, Save-a-Word Saturday.
Marion/Wendy: Speaking of saving, thanks for the rescue, Puffwolf!
Edgwyn/Puffwolf: My pleasure. Give the old Antichristmas Beast my regards.
Allyn/Jack: Oh, don’t worry. [draws the singing sword from the scabbard at his belt ] We soon shall.
“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.
“Thank you to audience members Miranda McNeff and Eric Wilder,” says Allyn, “for providing us with the inspiration ‘hounds, lots of hounds’ and ‘bardolater’.”
“If you enjoyed yourselves,” Will says, “(or if you didn’t, but you totally did, right?), don’t forget to leave suggestions for future productions in the comments! Words or phrases we’ve got to include, a prop to use, a prompt to run with… anything goes! ‘Til next time, friends: Will and Allyn out!”