By William Harvey
Special to The Commercial
Straight from Middle Earth, comes a tale of adventure and heroism in “The Hobbit”. The Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas took on the play with fervor, as they do with most productions, but it seems the passion for J.R.R. Tolkien, brought out a special level of concern for this play. Ben Brantley a volunteer spent hours building an animatronic dragon. The dragon allowed two actors to move their legs, which in-turn moved the dragon’s legs, and wires brought the long neck around to seek out its prey as it lumbered around the stage speaking of its intentions. The adventure also has its fill of fights and battles that play well, as swords and axes are slung about with yells and screams that make for a reality that can be hard to portray on stage. Bilbo Baggins, the main character, is played well by a young Hayden Watson. With his crop of curly hair and oversized fuzzy feet, he moves through the sometimes lengthy dialogue with ease. The man who sets him on his journey is Gandalf, played by Nevada Mills. Long beard and staff in hand, the wise wizard sets Bilbo on a journey which the small hobbit has longed for, but seems unsure of. Gandalf invites the dwarves that are heading the quest to come into Baggins’ home to eat and talk about the coming adventure. With several bearded faces and wild hairstyles the actors, which were mostly female and young, did well to make the audience forget that they weren’t a group of rough and tumble dwarves seeking revenge and victory. Anna Brantley, playing Thorin Oakshield the leader of the dwarves, also portrayed the rough and passionate character with zeal and heart.
Katie Willet as Gollum, and Christian Dancer, as Bard the Bowman, were also stand out performances, as was the voice work and dragon manipulation of Jonathan Hoover, as Smaug the dragon. With creativity, the director, actors, and set designers used methods to immerse the audience into another world. A special hats off to choreographers in the fight scenes that used lighting and sound to bring a vibrance to the action. “The Hobbit” is a delightful tale for any age, and one that is told well by the members of the Arts & Science Center cast.
The final presentation of “The Hobbit” will be 2 p.m. today. The production is sponsored by Pine Bluff National Bank and tickets are available at The Center, 701 S. Main Street in Pine Bluff; or online a www.ArtsScienceCenter.org.