The Hobbit is a classic children’s book by South Africa-born English fantasy novelist and college professor J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973), who is probably most famous for his Lord of the Rings trilogy. So, it is altogether fitting that some of the youngest — and cutest — child-actors in North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre’s theater-training classes occupy so many on-stage roles as dwarves, elves, and goblins in Patricia Gray’s snappy dramatization of the 1937 novel that Tolkien entitled The Hobbit, or There and Back Again.

You don’t have to be a proud parent or grandparent, a beaming aunt or uncle, or a not-so-secretly envious brother or sister to enjoy this rollicking, if rough-edged romp through the fantastical worlds of Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

Daniel Leef makes an impressive NRACT debut as the title character, Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit (i.e., a short, human-like person) and a homebody. But Bilbo is also a talented thief whom the wise old wizard Gandalf (Falcon Arendell) seeks out, and convinces to help a group of dwarves hell-bent on reclaiming their treasure, which was stolen by the fearsome fire-breathing winged dragon Smaug (Brian Harvell), who fiercely guards his lair on Lonely Mountain.

Arendell makes the itinerant wizard Gandalf appropriately mysterious, here one minute, gone the next; but Harvell — in a magnificent dragon costume borrowed from the North Carolina Ballet Company — steals the show as Smaug. (Parental Advisory: Smaug may scare the bejesus out of the smallest and most impressionable children in your household.)

Although his words are often muffled by a false beard, Maximillian Thomas gives a good account of himself as the dwarves’ brave but pompous leader Thorin Oakenshield; and Miranda Curtis is suitably creepy as the Spider. Kudos also go to Lisa Binion as the wily Elven Queen and Liam Yates as the brave archer Bard.

The spirited North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre cast, under the direction of Brian Lord, make up in passion what they lack in polish. Whether they play hobbits, humans, dwarves, elves, trolls, goblins, or wargs, these youthful performers portray these fantastical creatures with gusto, handsomely attired in medieval outfits crafted by costume designer Kelly Taylor, on a versatile set by Bill Yates, with the sound design and musical compositions of Greg Putnam enlivening the proceedings.

The Hobbit continues Friday-Sunday through December 20th at North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre. See our theatre calendar for details.