Last night, NYC’s Radio City Music Hall played host to a screening of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. Which would’ve been awesome enough by itself, given that Radio City is a fantastic place to see a film, and I haven’t seen Fellowship on a big screen since its initial 2001 release. But what made it super special was that Howard Shore’s score was performed, live, by a 300-person orchestra, along with a massive choir.

The movie remains as majestic as it ever was — but watching it with a crowd who knew every beat (and some of whom were dressed as their favorite elves or wizards), applauded at every major character introduction (it was a loudness-tie between Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn and Orlando Bloom’s Legolas) and minor cameo (like Jackson’s), and knew when to laugh and then shut up was a hoot and a half. Add to that the spectacle of the live orchestra — and if you’ve never seen one, I can’t recommend it highly enough; an orchestra that knows their stuff is like a massive joy machine, one with hundreds of moving parts, all working in concert — and it was terrific night at the theater.

After the two-and-a-half hours of Fellowship came to an end and the orchestra took their final bows, composer Howard Shore walked out on stage, accompanied by two special guests: Elijah Wood and Billy Boyd. And they looked just as tickled by the evening as the rest of us. Too bad we’ve got to wait until Oct. 9, 2010 to see The Two Towers in the same fashion at Radio City.

While this wasn’t my favorite big-screen moviegoing experience — that’d be seeing Serenity at a San Diego Comic-Con screening, introduced by Joss Whedon, with an audience who sang the Firefly theme song while waiting — but it was in the top 5, for sure. What’s yours?

Lord of the Rings
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  • Ralph Bakshi