Always wanted to see Peter Jackson's epic film trilogy The Lord of the Rings but didn't want to sit through the 11-hour runtime? Well, performer Charlie Ross and director TJ Dawe have a treat for you. In their One Man Lord of the Rings they manage to squeeze J.R.R. Tolkien's famous, and famously long, story into a tight 70 minutes, glossing over most of the bits about walking, naturally.
In the course of the performance, which opened at WaterTower Theatre's Out of the Loop Fringe Festival on Thursday, Ross performs dozens of characters in a frantic reenactment of the Jackson's films. Frantic, because as noted, this is a lot of material to cram into an hour long show. At times the pace is blistering and it can be difficult to keep up even for the most ardent fans. Fortunately, for himself and it audience, Ross takes breaks between movies/books. And he uses that time to chat up the audience a little, specifically making the obvious joke: if you've never read the books or seen the movies, why are you there?
A joke though it may be, he's right. The LOTR novice might develop a migraine trying to keep up with the characters or stories. And while he does lay out that playful disclaimer, the performance actually would benefit from a little more explanation at times, like character names and certain plot points. After all, he takes enough license to make some jokes and overall the performance is meant to be humorous, so straying a little more to help some people along wouldn't detract from the performance.
What does detract from the performance is breaking character in the middle of one of the dizzying scenes. And Ross did just that on several occasions. The culprit, primarily, was a faulty microphone that until he drew attention to it was hardly noticeable if at all. But it clearly bothered him and caused him to stop on more than one occasion to look up at the booth and question the difficulties. He also, understandably, lost his place once. But again, he drew attention to it instead of just regrouping and trudging on. Naturally, these will likely be remedied in subsequent performances, but they were worth noting.
All in all, Ross puts on an entertaining show. Even for those admittedly unfamiliar with the series, because he asked, there were laughs to be had. Much of the performance is physical, either through voice changes or throwing himself around stage, and that's universally funny whether it's in Addison, Texas, or Middle Earth.
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