The British-led, £13 million musical stage adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s trilogy The Lord of the Rings receives its world premiere tonight (23 March 2006) at Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre ahead of a planned London transfer (See News, 15 Mar 2005), which is currently expected to open at the West End’s Dominion Theatre in early 2007.

The world premiere coincides with the 70th anniversary of when Tolkien first began writing The Lord of the Rings and follows the 50th anniversary of the publication of the complete trilogy, comprising The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

The Lord of the Rings has a book and lyrics by Shaun McKenna and Matthew Warchus (who also directs), and music by Bombay Dreams’ AR Rahman and Finnish folk group Värttinä with Christopher Nightingale (See News, 21 Oct 2003). The key creative team – director Warchus, designer Rob Howell and choreographer Peter Darling (who were both winners at this year’s Olivier Awards, though absent from last month’s ceremony due to their Lord of the Rings commitments) – are all British as is the show’s producer Kevin Wallace.

Wallace and his co-producers initially intended to stage the musical first in the West End in spring 2005, but the premiere was delayed and the location switched to Canada once it became apparent that their chosen venue, the Dominion, wouldn’t be available for some time due to the ongoing success of We Will Rock You. The Queen musical has now confirmed that it will finish at the Dominion in October (See News, 24 Jan 2006).

Shying away from labelling it as either simply a play or a musical, director Matthew Warchus has described The Lord of the Rings as “a hybrid of text, physical theatre, music and spectacle never previously seen on this scale.” The 55-strong Canadian cast includes Britons James Loye (pictured) as Frodo, the ring bearer and reluctant hero and Owen Sharpe as his hobbit mate Pippin.

- by Terri Paddock