By Stephen Robb
Entertainment reporter, BBC News
"There are no small parts, only small actors," goes the famous theatrical adage.
People began queuing hours early to audition for 20 hobbit roles
It was literally true at London's Theatre Royal on Monday, when hundreds of people auditioned to star as hobbits in the forthcoming The Lord of the Rings musical.
Despite a 5ft 7ins (1.7m) height restriction, there were still a number of people in the queue, working its way around three corners of the block, who looked rather closer to orc-sized.
But applicants had to pass under a "hobbit height" marker before being allowed to audition, with borderline applicants measured for accuracy.
While special effects shrunk Elijah Wood and his fellow hobbits in the film trilogy, producer Kevin Wallace explained that an 8in height difference was required between the hobbits and the other male characters in the stage show.
That meant a 6ft height minimum for the rest of the male cast, who would also wear lifts in their shoes of at least 3ins.
Hobbit hopeful Paul Bellamy said: "When I saw that this [audition] was 5ft 7ins or below I thought, 'Yay!'
"Normally in musical theatre you have to be over 5ft 7ins, certainly as a leading man, so I have always been chorus or comedy sidekick," said the 35-year-old singer from Worcester.
The height restriction meant that the vast majority of the 16 to 35-year-olds at the open audition were female.
"That is keeping my hopes up," said 19-year-old actor Adam Nowell, who caught a train from Southampton at 5am to secure a place near the front of the queue two hours later.
He was also encouraged by repeated compliments on his hobbit-style outfit, while admitting that he had made no special effort.
Adam Nowell hoped his hobbit-style outfit might impress the producers
"I am just quite a country bumpkin in the way I dress," he said.
"Hopefully, the way that I dress, the people casting will also think that I look like a hobbit."
He added that he had read JRR Tolkien's books three times and repeatedly watched the films, so winning a part in the musical would be a "dream come true".
"It's my dream to be in a West End musical," said Gemma Davies, a 21-year-old singer and dancer from Orpington.
She confessed she was not a Lord of the Rings fan, but admitted that if she was asked by the casting staff she would say: "I love it, it's great."
Katie Lowenhoff, 19, from Hemel Hempstead, had been queuing since 6.45am.
"They always say the beginning and the end is the most memorable part of an audition," she said.
"If you are in the middle, you have to be a bit special for them to really notice."
More than 1,000 people are estimated to have turned up for the one-day audition.
"When you see so many people going for this sort of thing, it's weird," said Dave Bignell, 23, from Slough.
The height restriction meant a majority of women auditioned
"You imagine if everybody does a three-minute song they will be here until tomorrow."
In fact, applicants had just a few seconds to impress the panel and win a second afternoon audition.
"We are very sensitive to the fact that people have travelled a long way and waited a long time to be seen," said Mr Wallace.
"For the guys who are viewing the auditions, the weight of responsibility is what everyone takes to heart.
"They have to hear somebody singing eight lines of song and make an instant judgement, so the pressure is really on those guys."
But he predicted that the open audition would mean a career break for at least one lucky performer.
Applicants prepared songs to highlight their vocal range
"From every open call I have ever done, people have ended up in the show," the producer said.
"We will not go through this process and not find anyone to join the show, I am absolutely confident of that."
The Lord of the Rings is due to open at the Theatre Royal, London on 19 June 2007.