of us are Lord of the Rings nerds, and proud of it. We get excited about all things Middle Earth. Friends and fellow nerds told us about the hysterically funny Fellowship of the Ring parody playing at The Steve Allen
Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. They said that it’s a musical. They
let us borrow the soundtrack. Our 7
year-old quickly learned the songs, and sings them around the house. Within a week, yet another person told us about
the Fellowship of the Ring parody.
we knew it, we were sitting at The Steve Allen Theatre, with a room full of
other Lord of the Rings nerds. And the
best ones happened to be up on the stage, tap dancing with hobbit feet.
has earned critical acclaim, winning numerous awards including, but not limited
to the 2005 Musical of the Year, and Best Comedy Ensemble at the L.A. Weekly
Theatre Awards, as well as the 2010 Saturn Award and Best Ensemble at the New
York Musical Theatre Festival.
has also gathered for itself quite the cult following. The two friends who told us of the production
have been to the parody 4 to 6 times. They
both told us that although the basic show is scripted and stays on target, much
of it is improvised, giving us a different show each time, which adds to the
fun of wanting to see it again, and again.
While chatting it up with Director Joel McCrary after the show, he
shared that there are Fellowship! fans who have been to see the musical over 20
how did all this come to pass? How does
one decide to take the very serious literary works of J.R.R. Tolkien, and the
masterpiece films by Peter Jackson, and then set out to create a musical
and his friend Kelly Holden-Bashar sat at a dog park one afternoon in 2004. They talked about how ridiculous it is that
so many stories are being turned into musicals.
Their conversation turned funny, and they started listing the worst
possible movies to make into a musical.
The Lord of the Rings came up. They
laughed. Unless…unless it was meant to
be funny. A parody.
A musical parody of the Lord of the Rings. Not based off the books, but based off the
movies based on the books. The concept alone is funny, simply because of
the obvious departure from the intended serious nature of the story line.
was conceived. A musical parody of The
Fellowship of the Ring movie, directed by Peter Jackson. And as the cast were brought together,
Fellowship! was developed through the flow and spontaneity of improvisational
theatre. Lines were added. Lyrics were added to the score which had been
written by Allen Simpson, Composer and Music Director of Fellowship! Counting up all of the creative contributors,
Fellowship! has an astounding 11 credited writers.
is a 15-character production played by a cast of 9. Do the math.
Hardly a high budget production, Fellowship! plays on their lack of high
dollar funding, by making their need to double-up on roles, a very funny part
of the show.
are so many moments that have left us laughing, even days after seeing the
production. Moments that I so
desperately want to share, but dare not leak, for fear of spoiling the production’s
intended element of surprise.
problem of trying to create on stage some seriously spellbinding CGI created by
the special effects team in the movies made for a bit of a challenge. There is no way these effects can be matched,
even with all the magic of theatre. But,
then we relax, and we remember that this is a parody. Parodies can be made even funnier when we play
up anticipated moments from the movie that had grand visual effects. Those
effects are downplayed in Fellowship!, so much so, that it’s hilarious.
the Nazgul. In the movies, they are large,
cloaked, faceless figures with long black flowing capes, mounted on large,
black, muscular horses with glowing red eyes.
On the Fellowship! stage, they’re black stick horses with shiny red
the effort put forth to make Fellowship! a parody of Mel Brooks proportions,
nothing was spared in the quality of performance, both in the comedic delivery,
and in the impressive music.
Rouse, who plays Frodo, is a
co-lyricist and original cast member. Though hilarious many times, he’s more of the
straight man. And he has a great singing
voice. In my opinion, the best in the
voice standout is Cedric Yarbrough, as
both Gandalf, and Galadriel.
Yes. Mr. Yarbrough plays the
majestic Gandalf the Grey, and Galadriel,
Lady of the Wood, proclaiming himself, er, herself
as the wisest, fairest, and most intelligent of all beings.
the original original co-creator of
the project, Kelly Holden-Bashar? She
didn’t just write and dash. She too is
an original cast member. She sometimes
plays Arwen and Legolas. In the same show. Or she plays Pippin. When we saw Fellowship! she played Pippen,
and Edi Patterson played Arwen. And
Legolas. Both actors, and all three
characters, were spot on.
showstopper for me was Balrog, the terrifying creature of shadow and
flame. Peter Allen Vogt commanded the role,
creating a real moment, transforming it into a New York Style cabaret number, while
dripping in red sequins. He also stole
scenes as the ever loyal, and devoted Sam, as well.
pokes fun at both the actors in this production, and the actors who portrayed
the same characters in the movies. We
saw Mark Gagliardi as Strider, a rock and roll version of the rightful heir to
the throne of Gondor. Just imagine what
one could do with this version of Strider, if one of the Lord of the Rings movie actors happened to be the daughter
of a real life rock star. And that
character is paired up with Strider.
of the biggest laughs came from the performance of Ryan Smith as both Merry, and El Rond. And try as I might to describe it without
giving too much away, I find that I can’t.
If I share anything, I share too much.
loved how Chris Tallman’s Boromir very simply says, “I was bad, now I’m good,”
to explain the complexity of that conflicted character with such
simplicity. Tallman also plays
Bilbo. Tallman did a great job as both
was obvious that Lisa Fredrickson had a lot of fun playing Gimli, and the Innkeeper. A gifted character actor, she brought a lot
of life to both characters, and a lot of laughter from the audience. Especially as the Innkeeper. A small, but very funny moment.
still trying to imagine how 11 writers could possibly turn out something this
good, maintaining continuity and flow, mood and purpose. But, everything added in by these 11 cast
members came as the result of a sincere love of the Tolkien story, and the
Peter Jackson adaptation, combined with the fluidity and collective years of
training in improvisational theatre. And
it helped that all 11 contributors are freaking hilarious people.
Fellowship! run at The Steve Allen Theatre is coming to an end June 29. The production team is looking forward to
taking the show to Boston, San Francisco, and Louisville. We in L.A. want it here. Because with improv this good, enhanced by a
solid story line, powerful music, and tap dancing hobbits, local Fellowship of
the Ring nerds want our precious close
to home. And by the look of the
audience, we will keep the house full.
let the 11:00 performance scare you off.
I’m someone who regularly falls asleep before the weather report on the
news. I was wide-awake during the entire
show, laughing my head off.
is playing at The Steve Allen Theatre Trepany House 4773 Hollywood Blvd., Los
Angeles, CA 90027. The remaining 4 performances are Friday, June
22, and Friday June 29, at 8:00pm, and 11:00pm.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.fellowshipthemusical.com, you can Like
their Facebook page, and if you have questions, you can call the theatre at