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Review of "The Hobbit"

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Fans of the J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit might be disappointed with Edward Mast’s stage adaptation of this classic fantasy story. The condensed script abandons many entertaining plot points and characters, leaving a very streamlined adventure that doesn’t feel very epic. However, if the audience is a stranger to this Lord of the Rings prequel or if the cast is comprised of young performers, The Hobbit is a decent first step into Tolkien’s world.

Plot Overview

Bilbo Baggins is a portly, easy-going creature known as a Hobbit. His quiet, comfortable life is drastically altered when he makes a very out-of-character decision to join a quest.

Bilbo, Gandalf the Wizard, and a team of thirteen dwarves journey across Middle Earth to reclaim stolen treasure from a diabolical dragon.

Staging Challenges

Because of budget issues and the laws of earthly physics, it’s not easy to bring fantasy epics to life on stage.

First of all, the story is set in several imaginative locations. Scenes take place in a Hobbit’s cozy home, the rugged Misty Mountains, a deep dark cave (where Gollum lurks), and other equally difficult-to-produce locations.

The director could leave it up to the audience’s imagination. However, painted backdrops and a few creative set pieces can effectively establish the necessary settings.

Costumes provide another interesting challenge. Many school productions opt for the classic medieval look. Typically, dwarf characters wear cloaks and beards. The wizard wears a long, gray robe and tall hat. The vicious goblin characters wear a combination of rags and rusty-looking armor.

The College of the Canyons’ Theatre Department made original choices for their production. They drifted away from the traditional look. The Dwarves wore contemporary military attire, boots and camouflage uniforms. Bilbo wore fuzzy slippers and lederhosen, while Gandalf walked on stilts to denote his tall stature.

Smaug the Dragon presents another obstacle. Some productions take a short cut and never visually reveal the dragon – Bilbo just talks straight out into the audience while an actor replies in a booming, dragon-like voice. Other productions have created large, puppet-versions of Smaug.

What's Missing?

The play runs about an 80 minutes, which means that much of the plot has been edited. Fans of the book will be disappointed to learn that there are:

  • No Elves
  • No Trolls
  • No Shapeshifting Bear Creatures
  • No Giant Spiders
Also, one of the most beloved characters, Gandalf is featured only at the play’s beginning and ending scenes.

So What's Left?

Despite the many omissions, The Hobbit does offer several mesmerizing moments. The interaction between Gandalf and Bilbo is endearing. The gruffness of the dwarves is highly amusing. The riddle contest between the slimy Gollum and the pure-of-heart hobbit serves as the creepiest (and most entertaining) scene from the play.

The core themes of the play remain in tact, despite the substantial reworking of the book. The audience connects with the gentle-hearted Bilbo who longs for adventure yet isn’t certain it’s worth leaving the comfortable and the familiar.

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