Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Hobbit at Children's Theatre Company

The Hobbit at Children's Theatre Company

When: March 12 - April 14, 2019
At: Children's Theatre Company
Running Time: Two hours with intermish
Dean Holt in The Hobbit. Photo by Dan Norman.
"Our unlikely hero, Bilbo Baggins, would much rather be sitting in his cozy Hobbit Hole with a cup of tea and a plate of bacon and eggs. However, he somehow finds himself on a magically mystical adventure. Staged with speed and surprises, you’ll be delighted as things change before your very eyes. Discover what happens as Bilbo travels on an epic journey over freezing mountains and a frightening forest, meeting all sorts of fierce creatures—some who want to eat him, others who turn into dear friends."

What We Thought: The Hobbit is an epic adventure, so why is Children's Theatre presenting this show with only five actors and two musicians? Because imagination is their business and they do it well. This new script, adapted by Greg Banks, who also directs this production, keeps the cast hopping. 

Dean Holt, Reed Sigmund, H. Adam Harris, Becca Hart, and Joy Dolo.
Photo by Dan Norman.
Dean Holt plays Bilbo Baggins, who is drawn into a quest against his will. Holt often speaks directly to the audience, connecting us to the action and moving the story forward. Characters narrating the action can be a crutch, but here it works perfectly. The rest of the cast play all of the roles, including the dwarves who reluctantly take Gandalf the wizard's advice and bring him on their journey, to elves, trolls, a spider, a dragon, an archer, and Gollum. 

Each actor brings new characteristics to each person or creature they play. Joy Dolo is a perfect Gandalf, really creepy as Gollum, and her comic timing shines through as Bombur. Reed Sigmund is a commanding but sometimes conflicted Thorin, leading the quest. H. Adam Harris is charming and hilarious as Kili and imposing as the dragon Smaug. And Becca Hart changes from Balin to the archer Bard primarily by her physicality. Annie Cady's practical costumes and inventive accessories help the ensemble transform into creatures seamlessly and lightning fast. 

The actors are endlessly energetic as they march, crawl, jump, and fall around the ingenious set design of Joseph Stanley. There seem to be endless new configurations and hidden spaces, all in plain sight. Even the musicians' corner of the stage was integrated into the look of the set. The music, by Thomas Johnson, with lyrics by Greg Banks and Johnson, was appropriately evocative and included a number of fun songs. Nancy Schertler's lights and Sten Severson's sound design added atmosphere and helped to delineate the rapidly changing locations. 

The cast of The Hobbit. Photo by Dan Norman.

The Hobbit is an exciting adventure for Tolkein-lovers and newbies alike. All of the adults and children around us were very engaged. At the end of the play, we even heard one young voice say, "Seeing plays is better than watching TV!" We couldn't agree more! 

Accessibility Notes: Children's Theatre has a quiet room at the back of the theater for kids who aren't able to keep quiet during the show, which is an excellent idea, even though the occasional comments from the audience are always entertaining. 

Note: Parking at the Children's Theatre is always challenging, so leave yourself plenty of time to find parking and get to the theater. There was a steady trickle of audience members arriving late for about 30 minutes into the show, and it's too bad they missed part of the show.