The musical parody of “The Fellowship of the Ring”
a Kate West review
directed by Joel McCrary
written by Kelly Holden & Joel McCrary
El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd. North Hollywood, CA 91601
Running the month of December 2004, Tickets (323) 960-7774
“Fellowship!” is a delightful little parody of the J.R.R. Tolkein “Fellowship of the Ring,” the first volume of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and the mega popular hit movies by Peter Jackson. Written by Kelly Holden and Joel McCrary, it chronicles the classic story of Frodo Baggins, winsome Hobbit (a furry little creature of Middle Earth) inheriting the one ring of power and embarking on a journey to the fires of Mordor in order to destroy it. Aided in his quest are eight other inhabitants of Middle Earth: Gandalf the Wizard; Sam, Pippin and Merry, fellow hobbits; Strider, rightful heir to Gondor; fellow warrior Boromir; Gimli the Dwarf and Legolas the Elf. A very serious business. Except in this version, when it is actually a silly and ridiculous saga of song and dance.
The happy ensemble is obviously overjoyed to entertain us with this gentle mockery of Frodo’s mighty trek. With lighthearted fun, Bilbo Baggins, the kindly older hobbit who first discovered the evil ring, begins the piece with his big birthday celebration. Dressed like a bad lounge singer, Steve Purnick aptly plays Bilbo, complete with cummerbund and ruffles, rattling off terrible puns, and thus sets the perfect tone of hilarity. This is perfectly illustrated as the cast joyfully launches into song at every opportunity. In addition, in between numbers as background to the zaniness, there are slide projections of sketch drawings depicting a map following their progress.
Cory Rouse is an excellent Frodo, reminiscent of the touching innocence of Elijah Wood in the film epics and Edi Patterson is spunky and effervescent as Legolas and later Arwen, Strider’s elfin love interest. Peter Allen Vogt is immensely likeable as Sam, the barely suppressed homosexual sidekick to Frodo and is irrepressibly funny as the headliner demon, the Balrog, especially in his show-stopping number “The Balrog Blues”. The rest of the ensemble is quite strong as well: Brian D. Bradley as Gandalf, Kelly Holden as an almost-too-cutesy Pippin, Ryan Smith as the tragically unmemorable Merry and El Rond, the Matrix-inspired Elvish King, Matthew Stephen Young as the dude-like Strider and Lisa Fredrickson as the fiercely proud Gimli. Each actor seems to have the time of his or her life paying homage to the beloved story.
Some deliciously original ideas include Legolas (Edi Patterson) and Gimli (Lisa Fredrickson), evolving from bitter Elf-Dwarf enemies to fast friends singing “I always thought,” an amusingly satirical ballad. Edi Patterson also contributes a very Stevie Nicks/Cher attitude to “One Moment (with you)” singing a love duet as Arwen with Strider (the very funny Matthew Stephen Young). Joel McCrary must be credited with putting together an excellent ensemble and unfolding such a strong concept in a very loving way. The audience happily follows along with each inside joke, thrilled to be so in the know. There are no weak spots or actors and every minute is as enjoyable as the next. The entire cast, crew and producers all deserve warm congratulations for such a fun experience. Of course, it helps to read the books or see the movies first so be sure to do that and then call the box office immediately to be part of the hippest show in North Hollywood. Afterwards, you’ll all clamor for a sequel. Guaranteed.