Clayton Community Theatre has done summer plays in the past that appeal especially to young people and have young people in the cast. Last year, they did an interesting production of C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The three main roles feature young people, and young people were cast in those roles, and in the crowds that gather during the play. But adults were in the other main roles.
This year the same director, Dani Mann, has staged The Hobbit, adapted by Patricia Gray from the J.R.R. Tolkien novel. The cast does include a few adults – Nathan Schroeder pops up as the mysterious wizard Gandalf, Reynard Fox plays the weird creature Gollum, and Andrea Hyon Taylor makes a strikingly commanding Elven Queen.
The role of the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins has gone to a high school student, Ann Acklen Brown, obviously an actor of promise but not yet able to add much range and depth to a role that doesn't have much of either in the script.
The dwarves, whose treasure Bilbo is recruited to steal back from a dragon – and there are many dwarves – are mostly grade and middle school students -- with beards. Adults appear briefly as trolls. The goblins and elves are high school students and younger.
That's a lot of inexperience not simply to get on and off the stage on cue – credit stage manager Jonathan Small and assistants for pulling that off – but to bring to a minimal level of skill in creating dramatic rhythms and drive. All stayed in character, all were focused, intent and intense. That's a good start. And an audience full of parents stood to cheer at the end.
The dragon, breathing smoke, red eyes flashing, fiercely voiced by Everett Marshall, is impressive. It's the creation of set designer Laurie Smith, who also provides some interestingly painted set pieces and especially convincing stone walls. But though the crews worked with some efficiency, too many scene changes – and the rigging of the dragon – took longer than the scenes themselves, or so it seemed. That also slowed things down.
I think it's admirable that Clayton Community Theatre gives young people this opportunity. Next time, I hope they warn us more clearly about the nature of the production.