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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Valley Youth Theatre stages family favorite “The Hobbit”

Valley Youth Theatre’s “The Hobbit” is onstage Feb. 9-25. Here, Gollum is portrayed by Bransen Gates in a previous production. Photos courtesy of VYT.

Asked to leave his large, roomy and exceedingly comfortable home (or hole) in the ground to accomplish a difficult mission, Bilbo Baggins accepts the challenge, despite being a most conservative hobbit.

Battling evil and danger, he sets out to recover an important treasure. If he can pull it off, great benefit will result, not only for him but for all the hobbits of Middle Earth. Bilbo’s adventure includes the legendary wizard Gandalf, a company of dwarves, a frightening creature known as Gollum, and much, much more.

Gandalf the Wizard stars in “The Hobbit” onstage at Valley Youth Theatre Feb. 9-25.

On weekends Feb. 9-25, Valley Youth Theatre brings the magic of “The Hobbit” to its downtown Phoenix stage. It’s based on the classic book written by J.R.R. Tolkien, who also authored “The Lord of the Rings” books.

VYT consistently draws talented young actors from all over the Valley, and this show is no exception. Directing the production is Sandi Carll, VYT’s director of education.

“I couldn’t’ have asked for a better cast to lead on this journey,” she says. “Ranging in age from 7-18, all 26 youth actors were challenged to stretch their imaginations, find their dwarf voices, battle beasts, and even make music!”

She notes that they studied the story and gave careful consideration to original character and meaning. “From the very first scene, you’ll discover their talents are equal to those of professional actors, and their dedication to making this show great was inspiring.”

Making his VYT debut as Bilbo is Matthew Syms, a 15-year-old sophomore at the Gary K. Herberger Young Scholars Academy in Phoenix. He has previously appeared as Sebastian in “The Little Mermaid,” and Aladdin in “Aladdin,” for Art & Sol.

Also making his VYT debut is Zachary Holmes as Gandalf. Zachary, 16, is a junior at Estrella Foothills High School in Goodyear and has performed in a number of shows at his school, including “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” and “Alice in Zombieland.” Another actor making his VYT debut is Cree Thomas as Gollum. Currently in the fifth grade at Rancho Gabriela Elementary in Surprise, Cree is 11 years old.

Though VYT has presented “The Hobbit” twice before, the last time in 2010, Carll isn’t shy about expressing her enthusiasm for the upcoming production.

“What a fun adventure this will be!” she says. “Both die-hard fans of ‘The Hobbit’ and those new to the story will be on the edge of their seats from start to finish in our version of this visually stunning show.”

Carll believes the story is a timeless adventure that never grows old.

“The central themes of luck, bravery and brotherhood, combined with an epic battle scene, dark and mysterious encounters with trolls and goblins, and a run-in with a larger-than-life dragon, make it the perfect action-packed show to bring back for a whole new generation of young audiences.”

She cites the work of award-winning designers, including costume designer Karol Cooper, set designer Dori Brown, and lighting designer Bret Reese, who “have come together to produce the perfect path from the Shire to the Lonely Mountain.

Audiences will travel with us through Middle Earth where hidden messages and fun surprises are revealed. If you fell in love with the book, you will love our family-friendly, ‘page-to-stage’ concept.”

For Carll, putting on a successful production of “The Hobbit” means “respecting Tolkien’s masterful dialogue,” which she believes will help everyone fall in love with Bilbo, Gandalf and their dwarf friends all over again.

“The end result,” she says, “is a show filled with heart, courage, loyalty, and the magic that is Valley Youth Theatre.”

If you go: Feb. 9-25; 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9; noon and 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Valley Youth Theatre, 525 N. First St., Phoenix. $20. 602-253-8188 or vyt.com. Learn about Valley Youth Theatre’s summer camps at Camp Fair AZ on Saturday, Feb. 24.

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Doris Nehrbass

Doris Nehrbass, of Peoria, is a freelance writer, editor and proofreader.

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