One Man Lord of the Rings
Written and Performed by Charles Ross
Late last year my friend told me about this play that we should go see. "Play," I thought with apprehension. "Who goes to plays anymore. And at a fringe festival no less!" The play in question turned out to be One Man Lord of the Rings. As the title implies it's a one man show and it recounts all three Lord of the Rings movies in a little over an hour. Being a LotR fan and having seen all of the movies many times, my interest in going to see a play suddenly went up several notches. We bought our tickets online and headed down to the artsy Granville Island here in Vancouver to see it that very Saturday night, around 11 PM or so (Fringe Festivals keep odd hours).
We picked up our tickets and stood in line waiting for the doors to open, watching Fringe Festival volunteers peddle their shows to the people waiting in line, handing out fliers and play bills trying to get people to see their crazy sounding shows. Finally they opened the doors, and we filed in to the sold-out theatre of 300 seats or so. Not having read much about the show I was surprised to see no sets, just black curtains hanging over a black floor with the Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack playing softly in the background.
We were sitting about half way up (row 6 maybe) and on the side. If we were smart we would have looked over our shoulders to check who else might be there at the show, but sadly we just chatted about what to expect and about LotR etc. Nerd Talk.
Finally, showtime rolled around, and the house lights dimmed. A plain-looking man dressed in loose black pants and a black tee-shirt wearing elbow and knee pads (black) stepped up onto the stage, set down his water bottle behind a bit of curtain, and walked out to centre-stage. With a dramatic flair of his arm he started. Galadriel's opening monologue, abridged for time, followed by the introductory song of the movie with his words added in (loooord offff the riiiiiii-iiiiings: Fellowship oOof the RIiiing). Then it was off to the races.
He impersonated every character in the movie, adding a stance or a movement that made the character instantly recognizable to the audience--Legolas always preening his long hair, a hand gesture to the huge nose for Gandalf, falling to his knees for the hobbits, etc. All the voices were extremely well done, right down to Gollum and his pitiful coughing.
As the first movie drew to a close, Ross was visibly sweating heavily from the exertion of running around the stage during the battle scenes and even just shifting positions back and forth as he held conversations with himself. As "The Credits" rolled, he sang along to the closing theme song (which he also performed, flipping back and forth between humming and singing along with his made up words): "If I have to take a break and drink some waaater, because my mouth feels like the Sahhhhharrraaaa."
After about a two minute breather and a few sips of water he launched straight into the second movie. With each movie compressed down to about 20 minutes, he didn't cover everything, but it did certainly cover the highlights and the most memorable scenes. The time flew by as we watched Ross scurry, crawl, strut, and zoom around the stage, uncannily impersonating every character in the Rings' trilogy.
The audience had a great time, laughing at his impersonations, captivated by his fast pace and speedy recantation of the series. There was another short break between the second and third movies, and then it was home for the finish as the size of the sweat stains on his clothing grew. Sweat was dripping off his face from the intensity and pace he was going. He seemed to go faster and faster as the show went on, getting off lines and laughs in record time before finally it was all over as he sang "Into the West" and gave some good competition to Annie Lennox in the closing theme.
At the end of the show, breathing hard, Ross bowed to his standing ovation, and after everything had quieted down he thanked everyone for coming and let us all know that his profits from the show were all going to a local charity.
Afterward one of the Fringe Festival volunteers came up on stage and announced that there was to be an after-show party in the local pub where everyone was welcome to come, hang out, and meet the cast and crew. We decided not to hang out with these "Fringe Weirdos" and just called it a night and headed home. It wasn't until the next day when my friend was reading the paper that he found out who else was in attendance at the show. If we had just looked over our shoulders and maybe taken a more thorough stock of the audience sitting behind us, we would have seen Sir Ian "Gandalf" McKellen himself who, as the paper told it, DID go to the after-show party at the pub, and shook hands and chatted with everyone and overall had a very nice evening.
All in all, it was an excellent show, and not too long after seeing it we were able to catch Charles Ross's previous show (brought back by popular demand), "One Man Star Wars Trilogy." It was also very good, but I didn't think it was quite as well done as the LotR one. Perhaps Mr. Ross was out of practice with the voices or something. Oh well, both shows were well worth the money for movie nerds such as myself or possibly even casual fans as well, though I'm sure there's enough nerds such as myself to support his show indefinitely.