A couple of months ago, some friends of mine (withVintage Faith Students in Manhattan, KS) demonstrated their immense creativity by writing and performing an original re-telling of the first third or so of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, as a musical. It was amazing. They modeled the aesthetic on Peter Jackson’s film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and used the beards that I had made for their dwarf costumes, and commissioned* a Gandalf beard and Bilbo wig so they would all match. They stayed a little closer to the book than Jackson’s film, and they went a little further into the book than the movie left off. No word yet on whether they plan to follow up next year with another installment, but even if they don’t, the videos I’m posting below of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Musical Journey might be my favorite adapted-from-literature performance ever.
*By “commissioned” I mean “asked me to do for free as a favor,” since this was a production by volunteer college students for their non-paying friends. For my troubles I received a copy of the script signed by one of the masterminds behind the project, who plays Thorin, a CD of their practice songs, and the immense pride of knowing that I contributed to this awesome play.
Part 1: the dwarves arrive at Bag End where an unsuspecting Bilbo is about to be swept up into an adventure. The first song is verbatim from The Hobbit, and the second is from The Sound of Music with some lyrics changed to make it more Bilbo-y. (For each of these videos, if you click to watch them on youtube you can find all the lyrics in the video descriptions). How much do you love super-tall Gandalf?! He’s wearing stilts. Also, check out Thorin’s elaborate armor–it’s part spray-painted catcher’s leg gear, part woven placemats spray-painted silver so they look like chain mail. So creative!
Names and Faces
This was one of my favorite parts–this song kills me! It’s so funny, and so perfect! It’s to the tune of “Doe Re Mi” from The Sound of Music, but with all the lyrics changed so that it’s about teaching Bilbo the names and attributes of all 13 dwarves. It’s pure amazingness, and totally catchy. Song starts at 3 min. (Again, the lyrics are all in the video description on youtube).
Home is Behind
This scene picks up right after Bilbo rescues the dwarves from the trolls, (which happened off-stage in this production to avoid having to come up with a way to portray giant trolls that turn into stone). Bilbo misses a few lines in the song, but it’s based on “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, except instead of “cream colored ponies and crisp apple streudels, doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles” he’s singing about “bacon with eggs and toast buttered like crazy, Snapdragons, lilies, laburnums and daisies.” (Song starts at 2:35).
At the end, there’s a new interruption–a tra-la-la-ing elf!
In a meeting with Elrond and Gandalf at Rivendell, Thorin finds out about the true fate of his father. Gandalf has to convince him not to try to avenge his father’s death, and to seek to reclaim his birthright at the Misty Mountain instead. The dwarves set off on their renewed quest to the tune of “Be a Man” from Mulan, but of course in this version it’s “Be a Dwarf.” This is easily my second-favorite song, after the “Names and Faces” one, and it was my favorite part of the script because of this hilarious note on the choreography:
I also loved how they told so much of the story through this song, (which starts at 3:50), like Bilbo getting the ring from Gollum, fighting the goblins, and escaping the wolves. You can see an eagle flying in to rescue them at the very end right before the lights go down.
(To be a dwarf)
You must be strong as an iron anvil!
(Be a dwarf)
Defending family with every bone!
(Be a dwarf)
And grow a beard of unrivaled thickness
Enduring the storms like polished granite stone!
This is where Jackson’s movie cuts off, but An Unexpected Musical continues, with the dwarves entering Mirkwood forest sans Gandalf, who warns them not to leave the path. Bombur falls under an enchantment, and everyone gets hungry and homesick, which they sing about to the tune of “Red/Black” from Les Miserables. Maybe I was lying earlier when I said “Be a Dwarf” was my second-favorite, because I really love this one too! The re-working of lyrics so perfectly fits the characters and their backstories as told in the book.
What would my parents think if they could see me now?
Mr Baggins was such a predictable man
But my mother the Took lived her life on the edge
And their tension continues inside of my heart
The colors that they loved, now pulling me apart
Red – the sunsets in the Shire
Black – the Burglar’s road to walk
Red – my nice chair by the fire
Black – I can’t even pick a lock!
(The song starts at the 3 minute mark, and the full lyrics are available in the video description on youtube.) In the end, the dwarves are temped to leave the path to try to crash the enchanted elvish party they think they can see in the woods, with disastrous results.
Everyone has been captured by giant spiders except Bilbo, who finds himself alone with a dazed wood-elf. The elf scampers off muttering about unwanted party guests, and it’s up to Bilbo to face his fears and rescue his friends from the spiders, which he does after reprising bits of “Be a Dwarf” and “I have Confidence”. (I so love the fishing-pole-spiders, and the leotard boss-spider!) A rescued Thorin is grateful for Bilbo’s help, and gives a rousing speech about looking forward to adventures yet to come as they continue their quest. The whole group joins in a word-for-word singing of the finale from Les Miserable, asking:
Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barren waste
Is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing?
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
when tomorrow comes!
So amazing. I’ve watched it dozens of times now and I still can’t believe how much work they put into this just for the fun of it, and how well it turned out. I love it, and I hope you did, too!