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£12m Lord of the Rings Sets Closing Date, 19 Jul

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The epic stage adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings has posted closing notices at the West End’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane for 19 July 2008, just a year after it opened as the most expensive production in West End history at an estimated cost of £12.5 million.

The hybrid Tolkien musical – which opened at Drury Lane, to a mixed critical reception (See Review Round-up, 20 Jun 2007), on 19 June 2007 after six years of development and re-writing, a 2006 try-out in Toronto and six weeks of previews – had been booking through to 28 September 2008. It will now close after 492 performances, having played to an audience of over 446,000.

Rob Howell won the Best Designer prize in this year’s Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards for The Lord of the Rings’s spectacular, state-of-the-art set. 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. Special planning permission was required to refit the Drury Lane to accommodate the new high-tech set – according to the Daily Mail, the process of removing it and reinstating the Victorian equipment that it replaced will now take a minimum of ten weeks.

In conjuring Tolkien’s fantastical Middle Earth, 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 (See News, 8 Feb 2007).

Plans are now underway for German production, to open in November 2009, and a scaled-down touring version that will open next year in New Zealand before travelling to Australia and the Far East. Producer Kevin Wallace said in a statement: “The show’s creative team has proven just how enchanting, exhilarating and powerfully entertaining The Lord of the Rings can be live on stage. We will continue to bring this incredible theatrical event to audiences in London until 19 July, and we look forward to presenting the show to new audiences abroad from 2009.”

After its initial Canadian run in 2006, the piece was substantially revised and the running time shortened 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 and choreographed 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 Abbie Osmon (Galadriel).

According to today’s Daily Mail, The Lord of the Rings must make way for the upcoming revival of Lionel Bart’s Oliver!, a product of the latest television casting competition, I’d Do Anything, which begins broadcasting on Saturday nights on BBC One this weekend (See News, 12 Mar 2008).

- by Terri Paddock


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