The story of J.R.R Tolkien, his friends, the war, and his journey on why he started to write his epic was performed with grace, a cinematic score and moments of plot. This concert at The Actor's Church was put together in three days of rehearsals with over ten years of work, however there could potentially be some refinement to make this production stronger.
While the score is beautiful, cinematic and very reminiscent of the iconic films, it is unconventional for a musical. Unfortunately, this meant the songs were long and not very memorable. Being a concert also meant the actors were in their own professional, clothing and standing at mics with their scripts. The cast knew their roles well and performed with character which brought the scenes to life. The best scenes featured "The Fellowship" consisting of Sake Eijers, Aiden Cutler, Daniel Hall and Christopher Cameron as J.R.R Tolkien, G. B. Smith, Christopher Wiseman and Robert Gilson respectively. These four worked very well together as the protagonists and titular group. The only downside was their stage time together actually felt minimal across the whole production. Their emotional connection could have been stronger if there were more scenes and numbers to grow together.
This was likely hindered by a potentially distracting sub plot which featured the women left behind from war. Specifically the roles of Edith Bratt and Molly Field played by Samantha Thomas and Natasha Hoeberigs. Although Thomas and Hoeberigs were two of the strongest singers, their plot line was minimal and felt mildly performative as without them there would be no strong female presence in the script. While the script was likely inspired by true events and therefore actually featured a minimal amount of female representation, there are better ways to work this into the production.
There was a show stop during act one as there were some sound difficulties. This was quickly resolved and live theatre once again prevails. The cast and production crew continued with great professionalism and it was comforting to see a company work well to resolve the issue. The lighting felt mostly like a flood throughout and there was nothing in the way of set or props to liven the scenes. Most of them were set in pedestrian locations and so wouldn't require a lot, but there could have been more done by way of direction for group scenes particularly as some cast members were sat watching like audience members on stage for quite some time.
While off to a good start, this production needs more refinement to make it as a musical with a future. As it stands there is a strong team that need to refine what they have. Should this have been a play with a score it could have worked better. As a musical without any memorable numbers there is some work still left to do.
AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review