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Encore Stage & Studio The Hobbit

By • Oct 29th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, adapted by Patricia Gray
Encore Stage & Studio
Thomas Jefferson Theater, Arlington, VA
Through November 4th
2:00 with intermission
$12/$10 Children, students, seniors
Reviewed October 27th, 2012

Encore Stage and Studio opened its 2012-2013 season with a classic book for children that adults will also enjoy. “The Hobbit or, There and Back Again” as it was first called in 1937, tells the story of a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins and a group of dwarves who set off on a great adventure to reclaim the dwarves’ kingdom which was stolen by Smaug the dragon. Along the journey Bilbo finds a ring that makes him invisible when worn. With the help of the wizard Gandalf, Bilbo and the dwarves manage to slay some trolls, the dragon, successfully manage a river escape and make friends with the elves.

The Encore kids gave a remarkable performance on Saturday morning. Bilbo Baggins (Sarah Fahrenkrug) was sincere and used all of the stage when delivering her lines. Looking pensive and uptight when all of the dwarves begin to arrive at his home, but was drawn into their story of how their homeland was attacked by Smaug. Bilbo grew throughout the adventures to eventually be confident enough to banter with Smaug.

The creature Gollum (Thomas Schinder) and Bilbo had a top-notch scene together. Gollum was quite wiry and moved around the stage with ease, all the while talking with a grating accent. He and Bilbo sparred well together during the riddles duel.

The thirteen dwarves showed a wide range of talent. Each one created their own character and carried it throughout the show. Fili and Kili (Jackson Coerr and Carly Greenfield) were notable as they reported back on their scouting expeditions, the similarity of their performances emphasized that the two dwarves were brothers. Gandalf (Maxwell Carpenter) also gave a strong performance. He had some trouble with his magic staff at the start of the show as it apparently broke, resulting in a distracting scattering of marbles or beads from the crown of the staff.

The costumes were character appropriate. The elves were glittery and the dwarves were simple, but effective. Note the elves’ ears! Gollum’s costume was near-perfect, while Smaug was a surprise, requiring three actors to fill out his costume.

The sets were quite detailed. Bilbo’s large, round front door greeted the audience, and looked perfect. The opening scene with Bilbo and Gandalf outside Bilbo’s home was then magically transformed into his comfortable home with bar, tables, benches, food, and drinks, all set up by a great tech crew. From Bag End to the goblin’s cave, the dungeon, to the red of Smaug’s lair, the lighting was believable and set all the right moods. Due to scheduling snafus with the Thomas Jefferson Theatre, a few technical problems existed, but were being worked on after the performance. Each scene through the lights and sound (and fog) created an atmosphere that helped you feel a part of the book.

Be aware that this adaptation by Patricia Gray, and approved by JRR Tolkien in 1968, did have to change a few scenes and remove some characters from the original novel. Beorn, the eagles, the giant spiders and Laketown aren’t present. It was also very nice to hear several fathers explain the show to their children and discuss how it fits in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

A fun look at a classic story that should make any Tolkien fan pleased.

Program Notes

First published in 1937, “The Hobbit, or There and Back Again” has long been recognized as a classic in children’s and fantasy literature. The story introduces us to Bilbo Baggins, wizard Gandalf, Dwarves, Elves, and other characters that populate JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth. The friends encounter challenges in search of a fantastic treasure guarded by the fearsome dragon Smaug. As a common Hobbit develops into a brave hero, Bilbo’s journey encourages us to see the potential in our own lives.

Photo Gallery

Sarah Fahrenkrug ('Bilbo Baggins') and Maxwell Carpenter ('Gandalf') Sarah Fahrenkrug ('Bilbo Baggins')
Sarah Fahrenkrug (‘Bilbo Baggins’) and Maxwell Carpenter (‘Gandalf’)
Sarah Fahrenkrug (‘Bilbo Baggins’)
Sarah Fahrenkrug ('Bilbo Baggins') and Reiss Gidner ('Thorin')
Sarah Fahrenkrug (‘Bilbo Baggins’) and Reiss Gidner (‘Thorin’)

Photos by Larry McClemons

Disclaimer: Encore Stage provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.

One Response »

  1. Thank you for this excellent review of our performance, and the detailed description of the story and some of the characters. I am the dwarf “Fili” mentioned, and I appreciate your approving review Thank you!