Mary Poppins star Laura Michelle Kelly (pictured) will return to the West End stage to join the cast of the upcoming stage adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s trilogy The Lord of the Rings, which receives its European premiere at the West End’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane on 19 June 2007 (previews from 9 May).

Kelly will play Elven queen Galadriel with, as previously reported (See News, 8 Sep 2006), James Loye and Peter Howe recreating their roles as Hobbit heroes Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee from the £12.5 million production’s original run in Toronto in March of this year (See News, 23 Mar 2006).

Two years ago, Kelly originated the title role in the stage production of Mary Poppins at the West End’s Prince Edward Theatre, for which she won last year’s Olivier for Best Actress in a Musical. Her other musical credits include My Fair Lady and Mamma Mia! in London and Fiddler on the Roof in New York. Last year, she released her debut solo album The Storm Inside.

The Lord of the Rings, which has been slimmed down to two-and-a-half hours since its Canadian run, has 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 designed by Rob Howell and choreographed by Peter Darling. It’s presented in London by Kevin Wallace and Saul Zaentz.

The stage adaptation follows the 50th anniversary of the publication of the complete trilogy - The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King - as well Peter Jackson’s multi award-winning film blockbusters, completed in 2003.

According to director Matthew Warchus: “To read the novel is to experience the events of Middle-earth in the mind’s eye; to watch the films is to view Middle-earth as though through a giant window. 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.”

Commenting specifically on the musical theatre approach, Warchus said: “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.”

Currently at the Drury Lane, Mel Brooks’ award-winning musical comedy The Producers finishes its two-year West End run on 6 January 2007, after which it will launch a UK tour from Manchester in February, with comedian Peter Kay starring as cross-dressing director Roger DeBris (See News, 13 Nov 2006).

- by Terri Paddock