As the beloved fictional characters of Frodo and Bilbo Baggins celebrate their respective birthdays on 22 September, the Watermill Theatre has marked the occasion with the announcement that its acclaimed revival of The Lord of the Rings has officially sold out its entire run.
With over 17,000 tickets sold to both national and international patrons during the course of its 12-week run, the venue, based in Bagnor in Berkshire, has welcomed over 47 per cent of the production’s audience as first-time visitors.
The show’s director (and the Watermill’s artistic director), Paul Hart, commented: “The remarkable thing about working on this show has been seeing how audiences really have taken it to their hearts. People have really bought into the idea of the story being retold through the perspective of the Hobbits and love that sense of immersion when playing games and interacting in the pre-show. This birthday performance is very special as the idea of Bilbo’s passing down his story to the future generations is crucial to this version, and his birthday is the catalyst for everything that happens in this epic story.
“We are really excited – not only to see how we might share this magical story with audiences in the future, but also to welcome back those who’ve discovered our beautiful theatre and gardens through The Lord of the Rings for them to discover future shows and experiences.”
Executive director Claire Murray added: “The Lord of the Rings is an epic production, that perfectly reflects the quality and ambition of the Watermill’s work. Despite a 100 per cent cut to our funding, we are committed to creating world-class productions and engaging with our communities in ways that have the greatest impact on their quality of life.
“As we move forward without statutory funding, it’s vital that we explore how we can grow our income and reach more people. This show has seen us transform our beautiful site, creating an immersive experience that includes the expansion of our catering operation. We are also pleased to welcome 17,000 people to the theatre over the 12-week run, around half of whom are visiting for the first time and many from across the globe.
“This is the beginning of a new chapter for the Watermill, and I’m pleased to say the success of The Lord of The Rings and the support we’ve had from audiences over these last few months, allows us to make exciting plans and look to the future with confidence.”
Finally, Fredrica Drotos, a representative from Middle-earth Enterprises, said; “In celebrating Bilbo and Frodo Baggins’ birthdays today, we also celebrate the ingenuity and creativity in the Watermill Theatre’s bucolic corner of the Shire, and congratulate the entire band of Hobbits, on their unique and beautiful telling of this epic story.”
The Lord of the Rings musical, which was first seen in Toronto in 2006 ahead of a West End premiere the subsequent year, is based on the classic trilogy by J R R Tolkien about a group of Hobbits who attempt to destroy a piece of malevolent jewellery. The series of novels was also famously adapted into three Oscar-winning films by Peter Jackson.
The stage version has a book and lyrics by Shaun McKenna and Matthew Warchus and music by A R Rahman (Bombay Dreams, Slumdog Millionaire), Finnish folk band Värttinä and Tony Award winner and Grammy nominee Christopher Nightingale (Matilda the Musical).
The cast includes (in alphabetical order) Folarin Akinmade (as Gimli), Matthew Bugg (as Gollum), Reece Causton (as Ensemble), Kelly Coughlin (as Ensemble), Geraint Downing (as Merry). Peter Dukes (as Boromir), Amelia Gabriel (as Pippin), Tom Giles (as Elrond/Saruman), Charlotte Grayson (as Rosie), Nuwan Hugh Perera (as Sam), Bridget Lappin (as Ensemble/Dance Captain), Elliot Mackenzie (as Ensemble), Peter Marinker (as Gandalf), Louis Maskell (as Frodo), Zara Naeem (as Ensemble), Aoife O’Dea (as Arwen), John O’Mahony (as Bilbo), Yazdan Qafouri (as Legolas), Sioned Saunders (as Galadriel/onstage musical director) and Aaron Sidwell (as Aragorn).
The production, which received a glowing five-star review from WhatsOnStage, is designed by Simon Kenny, with musical supervision and orchestrations by Mark Aspinall, choreography by Anjali Mehra, lighting design by Rory Beaton, sound design by Adam Fisher, projection design by George Reeve, associate direction by Sibylla Archdale Kalid, puppet design by Charlie Tymms, and puppetry direction by Ashleigh Cheadle. The stage management team are Cat Pewsey (CSM), Katie Newton (DSM), Natalie Toney and Fern Bamber (ASMs) with Leila Stephenson (ASM Placement).
The Lord of the Rings continues at the Watermill Theatre until 15 October 2023.