Lord of the Rings (musical)

The Lord of the Rings is the most prominent of several theatre adaptations of J. R. R. Tolkien's epic high fantasy novel of the same name, with music by A. R. Rahman, Christopher Nightingale and the band Värttinä, and book and lyrics by Matthew Warchus and Shaun McKenna.

The Lord of the Rings
Lord of the Rings Theatre.jpg
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MusicA. R. Rahman
Christopher Nightingale
LyricsMatthew Warchus
Shaun McKenna
BookMatthew Warchus
Shaun McKenna
BasisThe Lord of the Rings
by J. R. R. Tolkien
Productions2006 Toronto
2007 West End

Set in the world of Middle-earth, The Lord of the Rings 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.

The show was first performed in Toronto in 2006, before transferring to the West End in June 2007 with a record £25 million budget. By the time The Lord of the Rings closed one year later in July 2008, it had become one of the biggest commercial flops in West End history.[1]



London-based theatre producer Kevin Wallace and his partner, Saul Zaentz—stage and film rights holder and producer of the animated film version of 1978—in association with Toronto theatre owner David Mirvish and concert promoter Michael Cohl, produced a stage musical adaptation with a book and lyrics written by Shaun McKenna and Matthew Warchus, and music 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, Ontario, 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 February 4, 2006, and had its press opening on March 23, 2006. It received mixed reviews from the press[2][3][4][5] and had its final performance September 3, 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. Richard Corliss of Time Magazine described it as "ingenious"[6] and a "definitive megamusical".[7] Ben Brantley of the New York Times said "Everyone and everything winds up lost," ... "includ(ing) plot, character and the patience of most ordinary theatergoers."[2]


The significantly re-written show, shortened to three hours, began previews at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on May 9, 2007, with its official premiere June 19, 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),[8] making it one of the most expensive musicals ever produced in the West End. The London production reintroduces the characters Glorfindel and Denethor (known as the "Steward of the Lands of Men"), who were both omitted from the Toronto production, into the narrative. Glorfindel in particular is portrayed as a dark-haired elf-woman, even though the character's original golden blond hair is described by Tolkien as a distinguishing feature in the original source material.

The National Geographic Channel produced a 50-minute television program as part of their INSIDE series that followed the London production from the first day of rehearsals to the first performance. Since July 2007 the program has aired on international National Geographic channels in over 30 countries, and on PBS in the United States.

On May 30, 2007, a preview performance was suspended after a cast member (Adam Salter)[9] caught his leg in the moving stage and was taken to hospital.[10] As a result, preview performances were cancelled for several days.[11] Salter made a full recovery and later rejoined the production.

The London production, which starred London's original Mary Poppins Laura Michelle Kelly as Galadriel, received mixed reviews. The Times called it "a brave, stirring, epic piece of popular theatre"[12] and The Guardian gave the show a four star rating, calling it "a hugely impressive production".[13] 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.[14][15] Abbie Osman later replaced Kelly as Galadriel on February 4, 2008. On June 19, 2008, many of the original cast members left the production, having not extended their contracts for the final month. They were all replaced by their understudies.

The production took its final bow on July 20, 2008,[16] after 492 performances over a 13-month run.[17]

Potential world tourEdit

On November 11, 2013, Playbill announced that the show would be revived for a world tour in 2015. The first location for the tour would be in New Zealand but dates and other locations were never announced. As of 2022, the status of the tour remains unknown.


Act IEdit

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 IIEdit

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 IIIEdit

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").


Character Toronto Cast[18] Original London Cast[19][20] Final London Cast[21]
Bilbo Baggins Cliff Saunders Terence Frisch
Samwise "Sam" Gamgee Peter Howe
Rose "Rosie" Cotton Kristin Galer Kirsty Malpass
Frodo Baggins James Loye James Byng
Gandalf the Grey / Gandalf the White Brent Carver Malcolm Storry Andrew Jarvis
Peregrin "Pippin" Took Owen Sharpe Stuart Neal
Meriadoc "Merry" Brandybuck Dylan Roberts Richard Henders Ben Evans
Elránien Monique Lund Alexandra Bonnet
Saruman the White Richard McMillan Brian Protheroe Tim Morgan
Barliman Butterbur Shawn Wright Tim Parker
Bill Ferny Patrick McManus Michael Hobbs
Aragorn (Strider) Evan Buliung Jérôme Pradon Robbie Scotcher
Glorfindel N/A Alma Ferovic
Arwen Undómiel Carly Street Rosalie Craig
Lord Elrond Victor A. Young Andrew Jarvis Michael Hobbs
Boromir Dion Johnstone Steven Miller
Gimli Ross Williams Sévan Stephan
Legolas Greenleaf Gabriel Burrafato Michael Rouse
Gollum / Sméagol Michael Therriault
Haldir Fraser Walters Wayne Fitzsimmons
Lady Galadriel Rebecca Jackson Mendoza Laura Michelle Kelly Abbie Osmon
Treebeard Shawn Wright Michael Hobbs
Steward of the Lands of Men N/A Tim Morgan Tim Parker

Musical numbersEdit


Some of the lyrics are directly inspired by Tolkien's novels, poems and related work. "The Road Goes On" is loosely based on Bilbo's walking song spoken by Bilbo and Frodo in The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring respectively. "The Cat and the Moon" takes some of its lyrics from Frodo's drinking song "The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Too Late" in The Fellowship of the Ring. "The Song of Hope" includes Elvish lyrics, which are a reworking of Galadriel's lament (in The Fellowship of the Ring), though the song is sung by Arwen in the musical. "Lament for Moria" takes lyrics from Gimli's lament in The Fellowship of the Ring.

The song 'Lothlórien' is performed by Legolas as an introduction to Galadriel. At the same point in the novel Legolas sings about the Elf-maiden Nimrodel, and although the two songs share a similar sentiment their lyrics are unrelated.

The song "Now And For Always" is taken from a conversation between Frodo and Sam in The Two Towers.

The lyrics to 'Wonder', performed by Galadriel, are reminiscent of the Song of Eldamar—a lament sung and played on the harp by Galadriel in The Fellowship of the Ring. [1]

Many of the songs feature lyrics in Quenya, one of the fictional languages developed by Tolkien, despite the fact that the Elves during the Third Age communicated in Sindarin. The writers opted for Quenya because Tolkien had developed this language the most and it is a form of Elvish appropriate to the characters.

Original London cast recordingEdit

The London original cast recording was released on February 4, 2008, and features 18 musical numbers from the show.[22] The CD release was accompanied by a DVD with superior sound quality and DVD bonuses. Disc 2 features an alternative version of "The Song of Hope (Duet)" and a slideshow of production images. It does not contain any video material although six official music videos had been filmed.


2007 West End Orchestration:

  • Flutes
  • Horn I
  • Horn II
  • Trumpet
  • Trombone I
  • Trombone II
  • Percussion I
  • Percussion II
  • Keyboard I
  • Keyboard II
  • Keyboard III/Accordion
  • Violin I
  • Violin II/Jouhikko
  • Viola
  • Violoncello
  • Contrabass
  • Guitar/Irish Bouzouki

Critical receptionEdit

The Lord of the Rings received mostly negative reviews from critics.[23]

Awards and nominationsEdit

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2008 Laurence Olivier Award Best New Musical Nominated[24][25]
Best Set Design Rob Howell Nominated[24][25]
Best Costume Design Nominated[24][25]
Best Lighting Design Paul Pyant Nominated[24][25]
Best Sound Design Simon Baker Nominated[24][25]


  1. ^ "The fastest West End – in pictures". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  2. ^ a b Brantly, Ben (March 24, 2006). "Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings,' Staged by Matthew Warchus in Toronto". The New York Times. Retrieved April 23, 2012.
  3. ^ "Mixed reviews for 'Lord of the Rings' musical". CBC. March 25, 2006. Archived from the original on June 6, 2009. Retrieved April 19, 2012.
  4. ^ "No screaming pop-opera here". Financial Post. April 1, 2006. Archived from the original on March 19, 2012. Retrieved April 22, 2012.
  5. ^ Nestruck, J. Kelly (March 24, 2006). "Middle-earth takes center stage: A 'Lord of the Rings' musical actually works. Who knew?". The Boston Globe. Retrieved April 22, 2012.
  6. ^ Corliss, Richard (March 20, 2006). "The Ring Sings (p. 1)". Time Magazine. Archived from the original on September 3, 2010. Retrieved April 22, 2012.
  7. ^ Corliss, Richard (March 20, 2006). "The Ring Sings (p. 4)". Time Magazine. Archived from the original on June 19, 2012. Retrieved April 22, 2012.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ "Tolkien shows cancelled after on-stage injury". telegraph.co.uk. The Telegraph. 31 May 2007. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  10. ^ "Rings musical halted by accident". BBC News. May 31, 2007. Retrieved April 23, 2012.
  11. ^ "Lord of the Rings show cancelled". metro.co.uk/. Metro. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  12. ^ The Times review, "The Lord of the Rings", Jun. 20, 2007[dead link]
  13. ^ Billington, Michael (June 19, 2007). "Guardian review, "The Lord of the Rings"". The Guardian. Retrieved April 22, 2012.
  14. ^ "Olivier awards 2008: nominations in full". The Guardian. February 7, 2008. Retrieved April 22, 2012.
  15. ^ "Shortslists Announced in the Eighth Annual WhatsOnStage.com Theatregoers' Choice Awards". whatsonstage.com. Bandwidth Communications Ltd. December 7, 2007. Retrieved April 23, 2012.
  16. ^ "£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.
  17. ^ "Lord of the Rings musical to close". metro.co.uk. Metro. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  18. ^ "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.
  19. ^ "Malcolm Storry Headlines London's The Lord of the Rings; Full Cast Announced". broadway.com. Broadway World. 16 January 2007. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
  20. ^ "The Lord of the Rings cast announced". londontheatredirect.com. London Theatre Direct. 15 January 2007. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  21. ^ "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.
  22. ^ "The Lord of the Rings Original London Production on Amazon.co.uk".
  23. ^ "Lord of the Rings musical to close after bad reviews".
  24. ^ a b c d e "Olivier awards 2008: nominations in full". guardian.co.uk. The Guardian. 7 February 2008. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  25. ^ 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 linksEdit