A Review of Fangorn: The Opera - Lop chop, lop chop, Orc heads are full of blood
King Theoden Sings the Blues: a review of Fangorn, the Opera
The lights dimmed. The audience hushed. When the lights came up, there was a cardboard Ent wearing gardening gloves. Music played. Nice music. Synthesised, but very pleasant. Five minutes later, something moved. It was a hobbit behind the scenes, getting into place.
Two minutes later, out came Merry and Pippin, who had just escaped from the orcs. The two actresses walked in a trench at the front of the stage, and had hairy feet attached to their hips. Quite effective. But there was something wrong with this picture. What could it be? Was it the fact that they were women, one middle aged? Perhaps. It could have been that one of the hobbits (played by a lovely woman who I know quite well), is fairly large, and when cut off at the waist, she makes a very square hobbit. But it may have been the fact that they had wild tufts of fur hanging off the back of their hands, so that it looked as though the wind had changed half way through a transformation into a werewolf.
However, their singing was very true and easy on the ear (in fact, that was true of the entire cast). The hobbits met Treebeard, and Scene 1 concluded.
Next came Gimli, Aragorn and Legolas, looking for our two hobbits, who had vanished without trace. Confused, they wandered around the stage. Confused, my friend turned to me and asked what was going on. I told her she'd missed 476 pages, and she didn't ask again.
They would have to go into the forest, Fangorn, it was decided. Gimli was reluctant. What he liked was killing orcs, not going into gloomy forests. He danced endearingly in his clogs (I wasn't aware of Gimli's Dutch heritage), then sang
Lop chop, lop chop
Orc heads are full of blood
Lop chop plop plop
Merrily they fall
I'm not afraid of any orc or wolf
The bigger they are, the harder they fall.
Then who should come along but a mysterious old man in a black cloak. He seems to know a lot about them. Suddenly, he throws off his cloak revealing a white outfit! A hand reaches in from offstage and quickly passes him a sparkly dunce's cap which with one fluid motion he places on his head. The audience bursts out laughing, and Gandalf himself can't help but crack a little smile. His awesome power and majesty are revealed, and we have another musical interlude to recover.
To confuse my friend further, the story now leaps to Gandalf counseling Theoden. And Theoden sings the blues!
Dat ol' black crow
Sittin' on a wire
Dat ol' black crow
Don't you know
He won't let go of me.
Meanwhile, a sultry and very female Wormtongue leans against the king, and he places his head on her breast. Don't listen to Gandalf, she warns. "I to-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-old you!" she shrieks hysterically, in a Queen of the Night fashion. "I to-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-old you!" When Gandalf silences her/him, it is cathartic for us all.
At the next scene change, the woman next to me, who I had heard earlier saying she was a reviewer, can't take any more, and leaves. But my loyal friend sticks with me. We'll see this through.
In the final scene, we are at Orthanc, with Pippin, Merry, Gandalf and Gimli, Saruman and Wormtongue. (Legolas has turned into Wormtongue now). It is at this point that the limitations of having multi-talented and omniscient actors come into play. Harper is Gimli, Theoden, and Treebeard (and composer). So now we have a situation where Saruman sings to Theoden, but Theoden isn't there, as Harper is acting Gimli at this point. But Theoden's lines are simply dished out to Gimli. "I know that voice! I curse the day I first heard it!" cries Gimli. Err . . . what? Never mind, on we go. Saruman, played by Aragorn (confused yet?) sings to the invisible Theoden, "but you, Theoden . . .Shall we have peace and friendship", but Gimli is the one who replies, "yes, we will have peace, when you and all your works are buried and forgotten". Sigh.
Now is Gandalf's big moment, where he shows the awesome extent of his new powers, now he has been reborn. "Look, Saruman! Your staff is broken!" and with dazzling special effects, the torch lightbulb at the end of Saruman's staff is extinguished. The audience gasps . . . clutching their sides with laughter.
Now it's time for the "serious message" that we were promised in the advertising blurb.
Now this wizard, could turn wine into water
He's been a naughty boy
Didn't do what he oughtta
I think there's something in that for all of us. You have been warned.
There are some excellent things here that Peter J. could make use of, and I hope he was there. And remember,
The power of Fangorn lies in everyone
It's what we are.