Charlie Ross on his One Man Lord of the Rings

I saw it with my partner Alex and we still can’t believe how Canadian actor Charlie Ross condensed almost 12 hours of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy into a little over an hour of non-stop hilarity. Here he was twisting and turning and humming and singing, falling on the stage – and quickly getting up – as he transformed himself into 42 characters, and performed dozens of hysterical sound effects.

Charlie Ross

Charlie was Gollum, and then a split second later he was Gandalf, then Frodo, then Bilbo, then Sam, Saruman, Elrond, Merry, Pippin, Boromir, Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas and so many others. What a feat! And the audience loved it and cheered as he worked his way through all 3 films with lightning speed.

For DC Theatre goers who were entertained by his One Man Star Wars, you have to run to Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company to experience Charlie’s energy-filled performance.  

Joel: What will audiences see when they come to One Man Lord of the Rings?

Charlie: They’ll see the LOTR condensed into a 70 minute, one-person, non-stop, ride from the Shire to Mt. Doom and back again. I play (hopefully) all of your favorite characters from Peter Jackson’s films based upon the masterworks of JRR Tolkien.

Joel: Why The Lord of the Rings?

Charlie: After a couple of years of performing One Man Star Wars – I was in the market (so to speak) for a new trilogy. The Peter Jackson films were great, and like Star Wars, the LOTR story had left a great impression upon me as a kid. In a way, it was a no-brainer.

Joel: You first played the show in Fringe Festivals and then premiered the show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. What has happened to the show since?

Charlie: Yes. I toured the North American Fringe circuit in 2004. I premiered the LOTR show at the 2009 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Between 2004 through 2009, the LOTR show had been waiting for the “powers that be” to grant me a license. Now, I have it.

Joel: You had to “audition” for George Lucas to get permission to use the rights for your One Man Star Wars. What did you have to do to get the rights to perform this show?

Charlie: The “powers that be,” in Middle Earth, live in Berkley, CA. Not too far, far away from Lucasfilm, in San Francisco. In April of 2009, I performed the LOTR twice at a small theatre in downtown San Fran. On the first evening, I had pretty much all of the top brass attend my show. They loved it – much to my relief – and we met a couple of days later to discuss licensing. Good things come to those who wait and wait and wait.

Joel: How long did it take you to put the show together?

Charlie: Between writing, rehearsal and revision, maybe 12 hours. (Joel is speechless!)

Joel: How did you decide which scenes to use?

Charlie: I wrote what I could recall from off the top of my head. During rehearsal, either myself, or TJ Dawe (my Director), would remember a moment or a line – which I might add in. Sometimes lines would naturally disappear. And jokes would evolve or mutate.

Joel: How does Howard Shore’s wonderful musical score play a part in the show?

Charlie: It punctuates the action and binds the show together.This is extremely important with regards to my show as there are huge editorial jumps from one part of the movie to the next. The score is integral.

Joel: You play wizards and hobbits, a spider, a dwarf, and an Ent. Which character is the hardest to portray?

Charlie: The Nazgul –  they scream and it’s really bad for the voice.

Joel: Which one is your favorite?

Charlie: I love them all, but my favorite is a toss up between Gandalf, Gollum, and Denethor.

Joel: Which is your favorite sound effect?

Charlie: The sound of the marching Orcs as they gradually get closer and closer.

Joel: Did you include any of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fictional languages (Elvish, Black Speech, etc.)?

Charlie: Just a bit of Elvish at the beginning.

Joel: Why do you enjoy performing at Woolly Mammoth?

Charlie: I enjoy the intimacy of the performance space, the theatre’s location, the theatre staff, and the patrons.

Joel: I heard that Ian McKellen, who played Gandalf in the Peter Jackson films, came and saw the show. What did he say to you after?

Charlie: He loved it. He whispered it in my ear when he gave me a big hug.

Joel: Have any other Lord of the Rings veterans come to see it?

Charlie: I performed at a LOTR convention in LA, John Rhys-Davies was in earshot of the entire show. Some Tolkien family members have seen it, along with some of the supporting cast members.

Charlie Ross with Joel Markowitz (Photo: Alex Murphy)

Joel: My favorite scene in the films is “Mount Doom”. Do you use it in your show?

Charlie: My portrayal is short, it involves the scene between Sam, Frodo, and eventually Gollum in the final push up the side of the mountain and eventually the casting of the Ring into the fire.

Joel:  Since you couldn’t squeeze all the three films into 65 minutes, any chance for a sequel?

Charlie: I did squeeze them all in—unless you refer to The Hobbit – in which case, that is coming soon.

Joel: Where does the show go next?

Charlie: Back to Edinburgh, around the UK for a month, then down under to Australia and New Zealand. There will also be many stops in the US over the next year. Check my website.

Joel: Any new projects down the road – like ‘One Man Harry Potter”?

Charlie: Aside from The Hobbit, I’ll just have to wait until the new trilogy rises up to the heights of Star Wars and LOTR.

Joel: I know that Lord of the Rings fans will love the show, but for those theatergoers who haven’t seen the movies and/or haven’t read the Tolkien novels, please invite them to come see the show, and tell them why they will have a great time.

Charlie: You’ll see twelve hours of film in less time than it would take to watch a World Cup Soccer game. As Ian McKellen put it: “If you liked the LOTR Trilogy, you’ll love Charlie Ross’s version. And if you didn’t, well, at least his is shorter.” It’s a physical pile-driver of a blast through Middle Earth: one man, no props, set, or costume, a cast of thousands. If you aren’t entertained, I’ll eat my own foot.

One Man Lord of the Rings plays at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company through August 1st.
Click here for Details, Directions and Tickets.

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