Last night’s packed performance of The Lord of the Rings at the 2,200-seat Theatre Royal Drury Lane was cancelled after an actor was injured by stage hydraulics 35 minutes into proceedings. Shows tonight and tomorrow have also been cancelled to give the creative team time to modify staging. The next performance will be the matinee this Saturday 2 June 2007.

The £12.5 million stage adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s trilogy, the most expensive musical in West End history, has been in previews since 9 May, ahead of a press night still due to go ahead on 19 June (See News, 15 Jan 2007).

Audience members at Drury Lane last night reported an unusual pause after the pub scene followed by a blood-curdling scream and the stage manager calling an early interval. Emergency services were called and actor Adam Salter, a swing who plays a Ranger in the 50-strong company who has previously appeared in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, was taken to hospital. A statement published today on his agent's website says that Salter is receiving treatment to a damaged leg but confirmed that it is not broken.

One shocked spectator told that the hydraulics operators sitting behind him were waxen: “They had white faces, and then during intermission three fire engines and two ambulances turned up and the front of house staff were in panic mode.”

When audience members finally returned to their seats, producer Kevin Wallace took the stage to announce that the performance would be cancelled and tickets refunded. He said that health and safety was a priority and emphasised that no similar accidents had occurred during The Lord of the Rings’s run to date, including its try-out last spring in Toronto.

Drury Lane has been dark since January during preparations for the epic production. Special planning permission was obtained to remove the Grade I-listed building’s original sub-stage machinery and install a new 45-foot stage with three revolves and 17 lifts. In addition to the expense, the design for The Lord of the Rings is the most high-tech and physically complex in the West End. The show also features stilt-walking, giant leaping and aerial choreography, as well as dance, illusions, magic and other special effects. Ensemble members were required to undergo weeks of boot-camp style training before rehearsals began back in February (See News, 8 Feb 2007).

The Lord of the Rings has a book and lyrics by Shaun McKenna and Matthew Warchus, and music by Bombay Dreams’ AR Rahman and Finnish folk group Värttinä with Christopher Nightingale (See News, 21 Oct 2003). The production is directed by Matthew Warchus, choreographed by Peter Darling and presented in London by Wallace and Saul Zaentz. The cast includes Laura Michelle Kelly, Malcolm Storry, Jerome Pradon and, as Hobbit hero Frodo, James Loye.

Ticket holders for cancelled performances should contact the box office or their point of purchase for refunds or exchanges.

- by Malcolm Rock & Terri Paddock