Sharon sends in this review of that wonderful new opera that’s sweeping the world, Fangorn! (I loved it… It was much better than Cats… I’ll see it again and again…)
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
To confuse my friend further, the story now leaps to
Gandalf counseling Theoden. And Theoden sings the
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
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
The power of Fangorn lies in everyone
It’s what we are.