One Musical To Rule Them All

Fri 5th – Tue 23rd August 2016

reviews

Coreen Grant

at 09:45 on 12th Aug 2016

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Expecting very little and prepared for a cheesy flop, ‘One Musical To Rule Them All’ is a gratifying surprise. From the very beginning the energetic actors and clever script work in harmony to produce a charming and lively performance in keeping with 'The Lord of the Rings' franchise. Although the singing is questionable at times, it is largely in-character and only adds to the bubbly atmosphere – Sam’s frightful warbling is entirely believable. Most delightful, the Napier University members are quite ready and willing to mock themselves and have a laugh along with the audience, a memorable quality which prevents the show from being frivolous and turns it into a tasteful, charming, and hilarious parody.

Fans of 'The Lord of the Rings' can rest easy in the knowledge that the production seems less to ridicule the series as much to exaggerate its best features, and scoff at their own attempt to create a production from it. The musical abounds in amusing metafictional references to its own shortcomings, and includes a second storyline which merges to effectively shatter the fourth wall. Deliberate anachronisms, such as the Witch Queen's skype call with her dark riders, provide a further source of comedy. Credit must go to Sam Eastop, director and writer, for crafting a script which 'The Lord of the Rings' veterans, newcomers, and young children will all love.

Detailed costumes, painted side sets and live acoustic music bring ‘Riddle Earth’ to life. Gundalf certainly does not skimp on his luscious beard, and the hobbits are delightfully dressed in waistcoats and buckles. Each character is boldly defined by their extreme exaggeration, and the One Ring’s silent but entertaining acting provides a fresh and original addition. A special mention goes to Fraser Nickolls, who plays the lovable and foolish sidekick Sam, for his incredible imitation and true to the original portrayal.

As can be expected in a musical, there are some contrived outbursts of song and clichéd moments, but for the large part these are taunted by their own cast, taking off their disagreeable edge. The singing often falls flat, so do not come prepared for Broadway blow-away singles: the value of the songs comes from their amusing lyrics and frequently uproarious dance moves (the Witch Queen’s number was a particular crowd-pleaser).

Despite a self-proclaimed anti-climactic ending, the show finishes on a surprise moment of genuine hilarity which receives a partial standing ovation from the delighted audience, indicative of the overall reception of a creative and refreshing production.

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Dominic Leonard

at 10:07 on 12th Aug 2016

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I’ll admit I judged this play prematurely – my dislike of musicals and love of 'The Lord of the Rings' made me think this was a cause for concern. Luckily, I was very wrong. ‘One Musical to Rule Them All’ is set in an alternate Hobbiton to Tolkien’s, a Hobbiton that banishes any adventurers from ‘the safest place on Riddle Earth’. Nonetheless, Gundalf (Kieran Holburn) comes to seek the help of young Froyo and Sam (Llewi Bailey and Fraser Nickolls) and along with the help of a heavily Scottish Grimli (Demi Sutherland) and a camp, Danish Legless (Finlay Macrae), they go to destroy the One Ring once and for all. The play playfully jabs at the genre itself, as well as picking fun at some infamous 'The Lord of the Rings' plot-holes, namely a hilarious section in which the Great Eagles – or ‘Eagle Resuce Force’ – try desperately, whilst being ignored, to offer to take the group to Murdor.

The characters are masterclasses in parody – the Dark Riders became ‘gnarly’ American surfer dudes (as well as particularly lithe back-up dancers for the Witch King), Aragurn (Stuart Tweedie), an insecure (not to mention heart-poundingly charming) Wild West hero, and Sauron is a surprise too good to spoil. The One Ring itself is played by a silent gymnast spinning a yellow hoop around her waist, and possibly one of the funniest characters in the whole show, moving fervently and twitching like a charged battery. The occasional anachronism is perhaps a little too contrived; Arwim as a high-school cheerleader is a bit too much for me, but the overall effect, especially when the whole cast is on stage, is one of delirious absurdity; concentrated, hilarious mayhem.

The mayhem is not perfect – the changes of lighting are rather abrupt in comparison to the slick performance, and there is the occasional sloppy entrance or exit where actors bump into one another, or an awkward between-scene pause that lasts a little too long. My main gripe is the lack of a Gollum, an iconic character who sadly makes no appearance.

The ensemble cast is wonderfully varied and talented, all taking on multiple roles to fill up the large cast list, and the live band was so flawless that at times I forgot that it wasn’t a pre-recorded soundtrack. Even though most of the vocal performances are also closer to a late night karaoke club than polished theatre numbers, the energy of the singers, the great music, the excellent dancing and the humour of the lyrics make this barely noticeable, and if anything add to the charm of the production. A joyous hour of surreal, wonderful storytelling that will make your jaw ache.

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