FELLOWSHIP!Book by Kelly Holden-Bashar and Joel McCrary
Music by Allen Simpson
Director – Lyle Kanouse
Musical Director – Kristin Spires
Stage Manager – Sarahi Salazar
Lighting Design – John Leach
Costume and Props Design – Joel McCrary
Set Design – Gina Farina
Suzanna Fox – Gimli/Innkeeper
Clint Gilbert – Frodo
Greg Hullett – Strider
Michael McMillan – Merry/Elrond
Kelsey Milbourn – Legolas/Arwen
Randy Pearlman – Bilbo/Boromir/Balrog
Ben Phillips – Gandalf/Galadriel
Christian Sanders – Sam
Brett Warner – Pippin
Kristin Spires – Piano
Mark Howard - Drums
Reviewed Performance: 10/25/2014
Reviewed by Elaine Plybon, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
At Circle Theatre, Director Lyle Kanouse, has brought together the perfect cast to produce the hilarious spoof that is Fellowship! the musical. The minimal set and thrust proscenium demands that the action and believability rests solely on the talent of the performers and this cast delivers.
The most visible item in the Circle Theatre’s intimate basement space are the two supporting columns on either side of the stage. Set designer, Gina Farina, used a creative blend of gaffers tape and paint to transform the columns into the trunks of two trees. The addition of lightly dispersed vines and leaves generated the illusion of a forest.
Set pieces consist of boxes arranged in ways to become tables, stools, and rocks. The lack of detail in the set demands the actors carry the action off with the well-written script, their talent, and their own improvisations to keep the audience engaged. The cast and crew of Fellowship! at Circle Theatre certainly achieved that goal. The raucous laughter and tittering from the audience was nearly constant throughout the play.
Costumes included cleverly combined rain ponchos and netting representing the scary clothing of the black riders, and a red Snuggie® the perfect robe for Elrond, the elf. There were live musicians including a pianist and drummer, which provided a nice touch to the musical side of the production. At times, however, the volume of the piano made it difficult to hear the actors’ signing voices.
My two favorite performances of the evening were those of Gregory Hullett, in the role of Strider, and Kelsey Milbourn, who played the roles of Legolas and Arwen. The two were consistent in their ability to deliver hilarious lines with serious faces and their duet “One Moment (With You)” was my favorite musical piece of the evening.
Hullett’s rockstar-quality voice was a perfect match for the 80s hair band ballad. Hullett was consistently aloof and mysterious as the king in hiding. Whether he used a subtle raised eyebrow, an intense gaze, or a flip of his long hair, Hullett delivered a healthy dose of amusement to every scene in which he was a part.
Milbourn’s energy was incredibly fun to watch throughout the play, whether she was portraying the beautiful elf, Arwen, or the bouncy archer, Legolas. As Arwen, Milbourn’s serious face as she galloped across the stage on a stick horse with Frodo on her back was exquisite. As Legolas, that same seriousness befitted the loyal archer. Milbourn’s contribution to the play included some of my favorite scenes.
Frodo was played expertly by Clint Gilbert. Gilbert’s role necessitated him being on stage nearly the entire time, and his delivery never faltered. Gilbert seemed a natural as Frodo, with his quizzical looks, apologetic grins, and a strong singing voice.
Ben Phillips played the seemingly contrasting roles of Gandalf and Galadriel. In each role, Phillips generated the necessary tone for laughter in serious situations. With rolled eyes or a tilt of his head, he convincingly portrayed a wizard or an elven princess, both resulting in raucous laughter from the audience.
Christian Sanders played Sam, Frodo’s best friend and sidekick. With a new perspective on this character, Sanders demonstrated the demure loyalty of this character with lowered eyes, sidelong glances, and rapt attention to Gilbert’s Frodo.
Pippin was played by Brett Warner. In this role, Warner was consistent with high energy and a fun, toothy smile whenever she delivered a line. Often, I expected to hear the drum supporting the punch lines in her delivery. Whether he was portraying the oft-forgotten hobbit, Merry, or the elven prince, Elrond, Michael McMillan was another fun addition to the cast and a perfect choice for the roles. A constantly pleasant face, in the midst of repeated neglect, was a trademark for the hobbit who, along with everyone else in the cast, broke the fourth wall repeatedly. Gimli was aptly played by Suzanna Fox. Her voice was strong and the intense gaze in her eyes, whether singing to the “little hobbit” in her depiction of her additional role as Innkeeper, added to her performance. The despair in her face as she cradled the remains of her ancestors was priceless.
Randy Pearlman delivered a strong performance in three roles. As the action begins, he is Bilbo, making a speech at his birthday party. As a member of the fellowship, he portrays Boromir, and his most memorable performance of the evening is in the role of Balrog, a mythical beast, in a sparkly robe and cape representing fire and flames. In this role, Pearlman performed as if in a cabaret, singing a song of strength and anger, “The Balrog Blues.” Pearlman succeeded in miraculously seeming taller with each role he played. As the hobbit, he seemed short, but by the time he portrayed Balrog, he was a towering menace.
Not to be forgotten, though uncredited, was the stage hand who made a few appearances that added to the hilarity of the evening. With the minimal set, there were very few props that needed to be changed between scenes, but this stage hand made appearances to provide sound effects for sword fights, the disco lighting and smoke during the Arwen/Strider duet and as a stand-in for a character.
The dialogue and situations do include some double entendre and innuendo, which would give this production a PG-13 rating. There is nothing that should keep you from seeing this show, unless you wait too long to buy a ticket. Whether you are a Tolkien fan or simply want to see some folks having a good time on the stage, you will not be disappointed, but bring tissues, because you will be crying with laughter.
230 W. 4th St.
Fort Worth, TX
Plays through November 22nd
Thursdays at 7:30, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm, and Saturday at 3:00 pm.
Tickets range between $20 to $40 and are priced according to seating and performance with discounts for students and seniors.
For information and to purchase tickets, visit www.circletheatre.com or call the box office at 817-877-3040.