At an estimated cost of £12.5 million, the epic, described by producer Kevin Wallace as “Shakespeare meets Cirque du Soleil”, is the most expensive production in West End history. The 45-foot stage alone, equipped with three revolves and 17 lifts, cost £1 million. 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 features stilt-walking, giant leaping and aerial choreography, as well as dance, illusions, magic and other special effects.
Director Matthew Warchus says of the production, "We have not attempted to pull the novel towards the standard conventions of Musical Theatre, but rather to expand those conventions so that they will accommodate Tolkien’s material. As a result, we will be presenting a hybrid of Text, Physical Theatre, Music and Spectacle never previously seen on this scale. To read the novel is to experience the events of Middle-earth in the mind’s eye; only in the theatre are we actually plunged into the events as they happen. The environment surrounds us. We participate. We are in Middle-earth."
Since its Canadian try-out in spring 2006, the piece has been substantially revised and the running time shorted by 40 minutes to just over three hours. 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). It’s directed by Warchus, with design by Rob Howell and choreography by Peter Darling.
The 50-strong company is led by: James Loye (as Hobbit hero Frodo), Peter Howe (Sam), Michael Therriault (Gollum), Malcolm Storry (Gandalf), Jerome Pradon (Aragorn), Rosalie Craig (Arwen), Steven Miller (Boromir), Michael Rouse (Legolas), Sevan Stephan (Gimli), Richard Henders (Merry), Owen Sharpe (Pippin), Brian Protheroe (Saruman), and Laura Michelle Kelly (Galadriel).
- by Tom Atkins