ESR slays ‘The Hobbit’ in Port Huron
PORT HURON, Mich.–It’s difficult to condense J. R. R. Tolkein’s classic book about The Hobbit into an hour and a half or so on stage, but the Patricia Gray play adapted from the classic does a pretty good job, and Enter Stage Right here is bringing it to life on its intimate stage.
Bilbo Baggins (Jonathon Slease) is a personable and affable hobbit content in his forest home. But his tranquil undramatic life is turned upside down by a visit from wizard Gandalf (Craig Thorston) who implores Bilbo to assist a band of dwarves in retrieving a treasure that belongs to them being held by Smaug, and evil dragon in Lonely Mountain. Soon, the 13 dwarves have overtaken Bilbo’s life, and the reluctant Hobbit allies with them.
Thorin is a fierce and brave dwarf and is played with determined courage by Rachel Kearney. Paula Bradley proves versatile as the creepy Gollum, as well as soldier dwarf Kili. Indeed, the whole ensemble of dwarves, queens and goblins does justice to Tolkein’s story.
Bilbo and company encounter unfriendly trolls, goblins, elves and get into hand-to-hand fights as they pursue Smaug. The dwarves are armed with daggers, war hammers and the like. Fight choreographer Laura White does a nice job of making the battle scenes come alive and feel just right for kids, as well as adults.
Enter Stage Right director Regina Spain does a pretty nice job of giving the cast of 16 who play 26 different parts a reasonable canvas for dragon hunting and forest dwelling. And her costumes are all right on the money. One of the big flourishes of the production is a wonderful dragon puppet, huge for the small space, that comes out of the rafters and bobs and weaves by way of deftly operated ropes and comes within a few feet of the audience in the front row. Talk about capturing the wonder of the story. Eyes of audience members of all ages were wide indeed.
The Hobbit, despite the love of the Tolkein stories by readers of all ages, feels like young people’s theatre piece. Nothing wrong with that, of course. In fact, if you don’t take a kid or two, shame on you. It’s very accessible for kids, though I was seated in front of three overly chatty ladies who seemed to struggle with following the well known story. Had they also had a crinkly bag of chips, they would have gotten my award for worst theater patrons of the year.
But don’t let word of a few rude patrons deter you. This is a wonderful story brought to life very nicely on the Citadel stage. Grab a kid and go.