Audio Drama Review: The Hobbit (NPR)

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien was adapted for radio in the 1970s by Mind’s Eye Theater in Virginia. It tells the classic tale of Bilbo Baggins’ journey through Middle Earth to a lost Dwarf Kingdom.

The story is one of the classics of the Fantasy genre and the adaptation deserves credit for its faithfulness to the story. It captures all of the most important and interesting moments of the novel. Ray Reinhhart (who plays Bilbo) does a good job portraying Bilbo’s transformation in the course of the story from respectable Shire Hobbit homeowner to the heroic burglar he becomes in the course of his adventures. While I think the performance is mostly serviceable and enjoyable, I think the production deserves some praise for the way it handled the scene where Bilbo met Golem. This was before the motion pictures so defined the character of Golem and how he talked. I found this audio adaptation to be different, but still genuinely chilling.

Where the story does lose points is with some of the acting. The cast are essentially unknowns and some of the voices don’t quite fit the parts. As was the case on several radio programs in between the Golden Age of Radio and the Twenty-first Century, the sound design was very minimalist. That’s not a huge problem when Bilbo and friends are walking down the road, but when you’re dealing with something like the Battle of the Five Armies, the Sound Producers couldn’t do it Justice, so you’d better have a really good imagination.

Still, the strength of J.R.R. Tolkien’s story and this adaptation’s faithfulness to it make it a worthwhile listen, if not a perfect one.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.0

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