Wickedly nerdy. That’s what Charles Ross’ show One Man Lord of the Rings has been called. But if you’re a Tolkien fan, wickedly nerdy means one thing: This show is gonna be hotter than the fires of Mordor.
Ross is a man dedicated to his craft. A true Tolkien aficionado, he takes The Lord of the Rings trilogy and compiles it into 60 minutes, á la The Complete Works of Shakespeare Abridged. Every voice, every character (40 of them to be exact) and every subtle Peter Jackson CGI moment is brought to life.
“The book takes itself so incredibly seriously. You can almost begin to take it as seriously,” Ross says. “If you have an obsessive personality — which I sure did as a kid — it allows you to research more and more as you go.” So he took his obsessive compulsion to the max and created an entire show around the series. True fans will appreciate the attention to detail. But, silly hobbitses, you don’t need to be a fanboy to love the work. Ross believes everyone can relate.
“Frodo Baggins is this disaffected guy. Kind of bored,” Ross says. “He dreams of more excitement in his life and then excitement comes to his doorstep and he suddenly has this adventure and he gets whisked away. By the time he realizes he may not want to be doing it, it’s too late.”
The funny part comes in with Ross’ brutally honest rendering of the show.
“It’s an homage. I obviously love the source material,” he says. The comedian gets some laughs by doing impressions, for example, accurately imitating an orc. “When you can convincingly make a noise, it tickles the funny bone.”
Essentially, One Man Lord of the Rings is a light ribbing, a place where anyone who’s dabbled in a little J.R.R. can come and laugh together, a club where they’re all in on the joke.
“It’s kind of like when you poke a little bit of healthy fun at your mum,” he explains. “You’re not poking fun because you hate them, but because you love them.”
Much like Ross’ other one-man show, One Man Star Wars, One Man Lord of the Rings focuses on the underdogs who ultimately save the day. As a struggling actor, Ross says these storylines resonate.
“My dad wasn’t always thrilled about me going into theater because he knew it was a hard life,” he says. “When I was able to make gains, especially with this show here, it was some kind of vindication.” His advice to local thespians is to take any doubt you have and get rid of it. For Ross, that meant taking a few of the initial reviews he got in 2002 when he started with One Man Star Wars, and rather than let them defeat him, let them push him forward. Today he travels around the world full-time as a self-employed actor.
“If you think you have the right thing going, you have to take it further and further,” he says. That sounds like something Gandalf would say to Frodo.