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“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future,” said J.R.R. Tolkein, author of The Hobbit. That is the message that Wheelock Family Theater will be trying to send to the youngest audience members of their stage production of Tolkein’s famous book. WERS was lucky enough to be joined live this morning during Standing Room Only for an interview with none other than Bilbo Bagins, the hobbit himself, and the infamous wizard Gandolf… or rather, the actors who portray them, Andrew Barbato and Calvin Braxton.
For those of you who perhaps have never read The Hobbit or haven’t has the chance to see it in its recent movie adaptation, the story follows a young hobbit names Bilbo Bagins who has been living a rather sheltered life in his home on the Shire. However, his life changes drastically when a wizard named Gandolf invites him to join him in a perilous adventure, and as one can imagine, madness ensues, and Bilbo ends up learning a very big lesson for such a small creature.
The extraordinarily polite Barbato and Braxton were tremendously excited to talk with us about playing the roles of a hobbit and a wizard respectively. When asked if it was a lot of pressure to portray such famous characters, Barbato responded that to him it was all about striking the balance between making Bilbo his own while remaining true to the character in the book. I asked Barbato and Braxton what they were most excited about for their upcoming performances. For Barbato, the most exciting part will be experiencing the character’s transformation from beginning to end in front of the live audience; For Braxton, it will be using impressive special effects to bring the character of Gandalf to life.
Gandalf is one of the most famous wizards to ever be written into existence, and is also known for being one of the most powerful. So what powers would Barbato and Braxton want if they could have them in real life? For Barbato it would be having “stretchy arms;” As he pointed out, with those you can not only swing from things and in a sense, fly, but you can also grab things from far away. For Braxton it would be shape-shifting, though he added that perhaps teleportation would be quite nice to have as well.
As it is live music week at WERS, when asked about what non-commercial radio means to them, Barbato was quick to provide a response. For him the discovery of WERS’ Standing Room Only a few years back was one of the best gifts non-commercial radio has provided him with. “There are show tunes on the radio!” was his surprised remark upon this discovery, and he thanked WERS for having the segment.
The cast of The Hobbit wants to assure the general public that their production will be fun for all ages and abilities. The themes featured are simplistic enough for young children to understand, but are also intriguing to adults. As The Hobbit is truly a coming-of-age story, Barbato mentioned that even for twenty-somethings like him, the message easily hits home; The Hobbit is all about self-discovery and the discovery of the world around oneself, and for young adults, this message is certainly relatable.
The Hobbit will be running at Wheelock Family Theater from October 25th through November 24th, Fridays at 7:30pm and Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm. Select 10am performances are available for school groups, and certain performances in November are available with ASL interpretation. Please note that several other accommodations are available for those who have disabilities.