Lord of the Rings (musical)

Lord of the Rings is a stage musical with music by A. R. Rahman, Värttinä, and Christopher Nightingale, and lyrics and book by Shaun McKenna and Matthew Warchus, based on the novel of the same name by J. R. R. Tolkien. It is the most prominent of several theatre adaptations of the novel. Set in the world of Middle-earth, the musical tells the tale of a humble hobbit who is asked to play the hero and undertake a treacherous mission to destroy an evil, magic ring without being seduced by its power.

Lord of the Rings
  • Shaun McKenna
  • Matthew Warchus
BasisThe Lord of the Rings
by J. R. R. Tolkien
PremiereMarch 23, 2006 (2006-03-23): Princess of Wales Theatre, Toronto

The musical has been performed in three professional productions. It was first performed in 2006 at The Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto. The second production opened at The Drury Lane Theatre in London's West End in June 2007 where it played until July 2008. The musical was revived in 2023 at The Watermill Theatre in Berkshire (UK), winning Best Regional Production in TheWhatsOnStage Awards 2024.[1] On 09 April 2024, Chicago Shakespeare Theater announced The Lord the Rings will be the opening show of their 2024/2025 Subscription Season.[2]

Productions edit

Toronto edit

The London-based theatre producer Kevin Wallace and his partner, Saul Zaentz, who held the stage and film rights, in association with Toronto theatre owner David Mirvish and concert promoter Michael Cohl, produced a stage musical adaptation. The book and lyrics were written by Shaun McKenna and Matthew Warchus. The music was by A. R. Rahman and Värttinä, collaborating with Christopher Nightingale. The three-and-a-half-hour-long three-act production, with a cast of 65 actors, was mounted in Toronto, Canada, at the Princess of Wales Theatre, at a cost of approximately C$30 million. It was promoted as a spectacle of unusual scale. It starred Brent Carver as Gandalf and Michael Therriault as Gollum, and was directed by Matthew Warchus and choreographed by Peter Darling, with set and costume design by Rob Howell. The production began performances on 4 February 2006, had its opening on 23 March 2006, and its final performance on 3 September 2006. The show played to almost 400,000 people in Toronto. It was nominated for 15 Dora Awards, winning 7, including Outstanding New Musical and awards for direction, design and choreography. It received largely hostile reviews from the press.[3][4][5][6] Richard Corliss of Time Magazine described it as "ingenious"[7] and a "definitive megamusical".[8] Ben Brantley of the New York Times said it was "largely incomprehensible", explaining that "Everyone and everything winds up lost," ... "includ(ing) plot, character and the patience of most ordinary theatergoers."[9]

London edit

The significantly re-written show, shortened to three hours, began previews at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on 9 May 2007, with its official premiere on 19 June 2007. The same creative team as the Toronto production was involved in the London production, with only four cast members reprising their roles from Toronto—James Loye (Frodo), Owen Sharpe (Pippin), Peter Howe (Sam) and Michael Therriault (Gollum). The production featured a cast of 50 actors and reportedly cost £12 million (approximately US$25 million),[10] making it one of the most expensive musicals ever produced in the West End. It was nominated for 7 Whatsonstage Theatregoer's Choice Awards in 2007 and 5 Olivier Awards in 2008, including book and lyrics, lighting (Paul Pyant), sets and costumes (both Rob Howell) and sound.[11][12] The production took its final bow on 20 July 2008,[13] after 492 performances over a 13-month run.[14] It was one of the biggest commercial flops in West End history.[15]

The Times called it "a brave, stirring, epic piece of popular theatre"[16] and The Guardian gave the show a four star rating, calling it "a hugely impressive production".[17] The production received many negative reviews from critics; Amol Rajan in The Independent wrote that it had "received a critical mauling throughout most of its run", leading to its closure.[18] In Canada, Variety labelled it "a saga of short people burdened by power jewellery".[18] The Toronto Star dubbed it "Bored of the Rings".[18] Susannah Clapp in The Observer called the stage design "gargantuan" with "a terrific, house-size spider", "black-leather Orcs ... like scarab Richard IIIs" and "long-winded ents ... on stilts". The trouble, she wrote, was that none of these characters "moves events along with any urgency."[19]

The London original cast recording was released on February 4, 2008, and features 18 musical numbers from the show.[20]

Later productions edit

In 2013, Playbill announced that the show would be revived for a world tour in 2015. The first location for the tour would have been in New Zealand[21] but dates and other locations were never announced.[22]

In 2023, the Watermill Theatre, Bagnor, Berkshire, revived a scaled-down version of the show for a 12-week run as The Lord of the Rings: A Musical Tale.[23][24][25]

In 2024, the Watermill production was announced to be making it's US premiere at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, running from 19 July to 1 September. [26] It was also confirmed that the production will go on an international tour, with dates and venues to be announced in June. [27]

Synopsis edit

Act I edit

The half-Elven maiden Arwen sings the prologue, urging those to whom she sings to trust their instincts ("Prologue" ('Lasto i lamath')). In the region of Middle-earth known as the Shire, Bilbo Baggins, an eccentric and wealthy Hobbit, celebrates his eleventyfirst birthday by vanishing from his birthday party, leaving his greatest treasure, a mysterious magic Ring, to his young relative Frodo Baggins ("Springle Ring"). The Ring is greatly desired by the Dark Lord Sauron, who could use it to conquer the world, and must be destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom in Mordor. Frodo and his friends Samwise Gamgee, Merry Brandybuck and Pippin Took set out along the road that leads out of the Shire, where they meet a group of Elves led by Elránien, an original female character who fills the role of Gildor Inglorion from the source material. ("The Road Goes On"). Meanwhile, the corrupt wizard Saruman also desires the Ring ("Saruman").

At the Inn of the Prancing Pony in the village of Bree, Frodo and his friends sing and dance for their fellow guests ("The Cat and the Moon"). With the assistance of the Ranger Strider, the four Hobbits escape pursuit by the Black Riders, servants of Sauron, and safely reach the Ford of Bruinen ("Flight to the Ford"). Awaiting them at the Elven settlement of Rivendell is Arwen, the beloved of Strider, whose true name is Aragorn, heir to the throne of Gondor ("The Song of Hope"). Arwen's father, Lord Elrond, calls a Council of Elves, Men and Dwarves at which it is decided that Frodo will carry the Ring to Mordor. The Fellowship of the Ring sets out from Rivendell: Frodo and his three fellow Hobbits, Aragorn, the warrior Boromir, the Elf Legolas, the Dwarf Gimli, and the wizard Gandalf. Arwen and the people of Rivendell invoke the power of the star Eärendil to protect and guide the Fellowship on its journey ("Star of Eärendil"). In the ancient, ruined Dwarf-mines of Moria, Gandalf confronts a Balrog, a monstrous creature of evil, and falls into the darkness.

Act II edit

The Fellowship takes refuge in Lothlórien, the mystical realm of Galadriel, an Elven lady of great power and wisdom ("The Golden Wood", "Lothlórien"). As their journey south continues, Boromir attempts to take the Ring from Frodo; Frodo and Sam flee from the rest of the Fellowship, and Boromir falls in battle. Gandalf returns in time to intervene at the Siege of the City of Kings, where the Lands of Men are under attack by the forces of Saruman and the Orcs of Mordor ("The Siege of the City of Kings"). Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam are joined on their journey by Gollum, a wretched creature who possessed the Ring for centuries and desires to have it for his own again. As they approach Mordor, Frodo and Sam sing to each other about the power of stories ("Now and for Always"). Gollum is moved by their song, but the evil side of his personality asserts itself and he plans to betray the Hobbits ("Gollum/Sméagol").

Act III edit

If Aragorn can defeat the forces of evil and reclaim the kingship of Men, he will receive Arwen's hand in marriage ("The Song of Hope (Duet)"). Meanwhile, Gollum leads Sam and Frodo to the lair of an enormous spider named Shelob so he can take the Ring from Frodo when he is dead, but the hobbits manage to survive and make their way to Mount Doom. Galadriel casts spells to protect the forces of good in the final battle ("Wonder", "The Final Battle"). Frodo and Sam finally reach the Cracks of Doom to destroy the Ring once and for all, but Frodo is consumed by the Ring's power and claims it for himself. Suddenly, Gollum reappears and takes the Ring from Frodo, but he loses his balance and falls into the fire with it. With the Ring's destruction, Sauron is defeated and the dominion of Men begins. Aragorn becomes King and marries Arwen ("City of Kings"), but Frodo, wearied by his quest, decides to leave Middle-earth forever and sail with Bilbo, Gandalf and the Great Elves to the lands of the West ("Epilogue (Farewells)"). After bidding farewell to their friend, Sam, Merry and Pippin return to the Shire ("Finale").

Production changes edit

During the scene at the Ford, Elrond was originally present in Toronto. In London however, Elrond is replaced by Alma Ferovic's character. Toronto also featured a scene in which Galadriel, Arwen, and Elrond, even though they are not physically present, view the action through magic. When the show moved to London, the prologue scene, which was shown as a shadow play, was completely absent. In addition, "Galadriel's Song" was transferred from the Lothlórien scene in Act Two to Act Three. The whole Lothlórien scene was also redesigned, and the script tightened, with many characters from Toronto being completely cut.[28][page needed]

In the 2023 Watermill Theatre production, the show was changed from having three acts to only having two. In this revision, the act break happens following the death of Boromir and the departure of Sam and Frodo. Act Two begins with the introduction of Gollum into the story.

Casts edit

Character Toronto Cast[29] Original London Cast[30][31] Final London Cast[32] Berkshire Revival Cast[33] Final Berkshire Cast[34]
Bilbo Baggins Cliff Saunders Terence Frisch John O'Mahony
Samwise "Sam" Gamgee Peter Howe Nuwan Hugh Perera
Rose "Rosie" Cotton Kristin Galer Kirsty Malpass Charlotte Grayson
Frodo Baggins James Loye James Byng Louis Maskell
Gandalf the Grey / Gandalf the White Brent Carver Malcolm Storry Andrew Jarvis Peter Marinker Patrick Bridgman
Peregrin "Pippin" Took Owen Sharpe Stuart Neal Amelia Gabriel
Meriadoc "Merry" Brandybuck Dylan Roberts Richard Henders Ben Evans Geraint Downing
Elránien Monique Lund Alexandra Bonnet Sioned Saunders
Saruman the White Richard McMillan Brian Protheroe Tim Morgan Tom Giles
Barliman Butterbur Shawn Wright Tim Parker Bridget Lappin
Bill Ferny Patrick McManus Michael Hobbs Reece Causton
Aragorn (Strider) Evan Buliung Jérôme Pradon Robbie Scotcher Aaron Sidwell
Glorfindel Alma Ferovic
Arwen Undómiel Carly Street Rosalie Craig Aoife O'Dea
Lord Elrond Victor A. Young Andrew Jarvis Michael Hobbs Tom Giles
Boromir Dion Johnstone Steven Miller Peter Dukes
Gimli Ross Williams Sévan Stephan Folarin Akinmade
Legolas Greenleaf Gabriel Burrafato Michael Rouse Yazdan Qafouri
Gollum / Sméagol Michael Therriault Matthew Bugg
Haldir Fraser Walters Wayne Fitzsimmons Elliot McKenzie
Lady Galadriel Rebecca Jackson Mendoza Laura Michelle Kelly Abbie Osmon Georgia Louise Sioned Saunders
Treebeard Shawn Wright Michael Hobbs Peter Dukes
Steward of the Lands of Men Tim Morgan Tim Parker John O'Mahony
Éowyn[35] Aryin Mackie
King Théoden[35] Kerry Dorey
Witch King of Angmar[35] Don Gough
Gaffer Gamgee[35] Sanders Whiting
Déagol[36] Joel Benson David Grant
Ensemble Reece Causton,
Kelly Coughlin,
Bridget Lappin,
Elliot Mackenzie,
Sioned Saunders,
Zara Naeem

Musical numbers edit

Awards and nominations edit

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2008 Laurence Olivier Award Best New Musical Nominated[37][38]
Best Set Design Rob Howell Nominated[37][38]
Best Costume Design Nominated[37][38]
Best Lighting Design Paul Pyant Nominated[37][38]
Best Sound Design Simon Baker Nominated[37][38]

References edit

  1. ^ "The 24th Annual WhatsOnStage Awards: Full list of winners". 11 February 2024.
  2. ^ "Chicago Shakespeare Theater: The Lordof the Rings".
  3. ^ Swain, Marianka. "Inside the disastrous Lord of the Rings musical that crippled its cast". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2 August 2023. What could go wrong? Well, everything. The show... closed after less than six months – a failure both commercially (not recouping its budget) and critically. A coolly devastating Variety review branded it "a saga of short people burdened by power jewelry", while the Toronto Star's Richard Ouzounian said he was "bored of the Rings", and the Telegraph's Charles Spencer cried: "It should come with an elf warning!
  4. ^ "Mixed reviews for 'Lord of the Rings' musical". CBC. 25 March 2006. Archived from the original on 6 June 2009. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
  5. ^ "No screaming pop-opera here". Financial Post. 1 April 2006. Archived from the original on 19 March 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  6. ^ Nestruck, J. Kelly (24 March 2006). "Middle-earth takes center stage: A 'Lord of the Rings' musical actually works. Who knew?". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  7. ^ Corliss, Richard (20 March 2006). "The Ring Sings (p. 1)". Time Magazine. Archived from the original on 3 September 2010. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  8. ^ Corliss, Richard (20 March 2006). "The Ring Sings (p. 4)". Time Magazine. Archived from the original on 19 June 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  9. ^ Brantley, Ben (24 March 2006). "Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings,' Staged by Matthew Warchus in Toronto". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
  10. ^ Different sources have put the cost of the production as anywhere between £7 million and £25 million. The confusion seems to come from conversions to and from US dollars.
  11. ^ "Olivier awards 2008: nominations in full". The Guardian. 7 February 2008. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  12. ^ "Shortslists Announced in the Eighth Annual WhatsOnStage.com Theatregoers' Choice Awards". whatsonstage.com. Bandwidth Communications Ltd. 7 December 2007. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
  13. ^ "£12m Lord of the Rings Sets Closing Date, 19 Jul". whatsonstage.com. Whats on Stage. 14 March 2008. Archived from the original on 9 February 2013. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  14. ^ "Lord of the Rings musical to close". metro.co.uk. Metro. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  15. ^ "The fastest West End Flops – in pictures". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  16. ^ The Times review, "The Lord of the Rings", 20 June 2007[dead link]
  17. ^ Billington, Michael (19 June 2007). "Guardian review, "The Lord of the Rings"". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  18. ^ a b c Rajan, Amol (15 March 2008). "Lord of the Rings musical to close after bad reviews". The Independent.
  19. ^ Clapp, Susannah (23 June 2007). "A hobbit that's easy to kick". The Observer. Retrieved 4 March 2023.
  20. ^ Rahman, A. R. (2008). The Lord of the Rings Original London Production. Kevin Wallace Music. LOTR 1001.
  21. ^ Hetrick, Adam (11 November 2013). "Lord of the Rings Musical Will Embark On 2015 World Tour". Playbill.
  22. ^ "The Lord of the Rings - An Epic Stage Adventure - World Tour Premiere 2015". www.lotr.com. Retrieved 28 July 2023.
  23. ^ "The Lord of the Rings musical to be revived in 'semi-immersive' production this summer". Whatsonstage. 2 March 2023. Retrieved 2 March 2023.
  24. ^ Wild, Stephi. "Immersive THE LORD OF THE RINGS Musical Will Open in the UK This Summer". BroadwayWorld.com. Retrieved 28 July 2023.
  25. ^ "'Lord Of The Rings' Musical Co-Created By 'Matilda' Director Matthew Warchus Headed For Immersive Open-Air Performance In UK". Deadline. 2 March 2023. Retrieved 2 March 2023.
  26. ^ "Watermill Theatre's The Lord of the Rings to stage American premiere". Whatsonstage. 9 April 2024. Retrieved 10 April 2024.
  27. ^ "'The Lord Of The Rings' UK Musical Sets Chicago U.S. Premiere". Deadline. 9 April 2024. Retrieved 17 April 2024.
  28. ^ Russel, Gary (2007). The Lord of the Rings: The Official Stage Companion. HarperCollins.
  29. ^ "Precious News! Tony Award Winner Will Play Gandalf in Lord of the Rings Musical; Cast Announced". playbill.com. Playbill. 25 July 2005. Archived from the original on 31 January 2013. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  30. ^ "Malcolm Storry Headlines London's The Lord of the Rings; Full Cast Announced". broadway.com. Broadway World. 16 January 2007. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
  31. ^ "The Lord of the Rings cast announced". londontheatredirect.com. London Theatre Direct. 15 January 2007. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  32. ^ "Cast – for the final performances at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane". lotr.com. Lord of the Rings (musical). Archived from the original on 17 October 2012. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  33. ^ "THE LORD OF THE RINGS". www.watermill.org.uk. Retrieved 28 July 2023.
  34. ^ "THE LORD OF THE RINGS". Retrieved 26 November 2023.
  35. ^ a b c d Russel, Gary (2007). The Lord of the Rings: The Official Stage Companion. HarperColinsPublishers. p. 157.
  36. ^ Russel, Gary (2007). The Lord of the Rings: The Official Stage Companion. HarperColinsPublishers. pp. 157–158.
  37. ^ a b c d e "Olivier awards 2008: nominations in full". guardian.co.uk. The Guardian. 7 February 2008. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  38. ^ a b c d e "Olivier Awards 2008". olivierawards.com. Laurence Olivier Award. Archived from the original on 20 November 2012. Retrieved 6 October 2012.

External links edit