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Last Updated: Friday, 24 March 2006, 16:35 GMT
Press views: The Lord of the Rings
The $25m (14m) musical version of The Lord of the Rings, which has opened in Toronto, Canada, has left most critics unimpressed.


Brent Carver in the Lord of the Rings musical
Brent Carver plays Gandalf, Sir Ian McKellen's role in the films
Everyone and everything winds up lost in this $25m adaptation of JRR Tolkien's cult-inspiring trilogy of fantasy novels.

That includes plot, character and the patience of most ordinary theatregoers.

The musical numbers are solemn, incantatory affairs, suggesting Enya at an ashram. Many of them are performed at least partly in Elvish.

The choreography is by Peter Darling, whose work for the London hit Billy Elliot: The Musical is breathtaking, but who here seems stymied by the sheer size of his ensemble.


From whimsical to magical and majestic, the stage production of Lord of the Rings is lavishly designed to appeal to Rings newcomers as well as diehard fans of Tolkien's trilogy.

Clocking in at a hefty three-and-a-half hours (with two brief intermissions), the epic fantasy is full of energy and wonder.

There isn't a weak link in all the elements - the sound, music, lighting, costumes.

Innovative stage designs seamlessly carry the audience through transitions of mood and locale for this grand, mythic journey.


How could any stage production hope to match the thrills of the Oscar-winning trilogy of films, which used no end of CGI effects to make the dreamlike and the fantastical come true?

Well, now we know. It couldn't.

The battle scenes, even if they do boast orcs on bouncy stilts, are neither as epic nor as thrilling as I'd hoped, despite a hi-tech stage that performs all kinds of tricks.

And the book, by Warchus and Shaun McKenna, is desperately short of both humour and depth of feeling.

The one undoubted star of the evening is Michael Therriault, who gives a sensational physical performance as the sly, slimy, physically and spiritually twisted Gollum.


Nowadays, a budget of C$28m just doesn't buy you the rollicking stage epic it used to.

The blueprint for the adaptation - a heroic, if misguided, undertaking billed as a hybrid of drama, music and spectacle - is now in place.

All it needs is an engaging storytelling approach, an emotional arc, credible performances and a more coherent musical score.

Unless The Lord of the Rings addresses these issues before it transfers to London's West End, it will remain a pale imitation of the books, the films and, tragically, theatre itself.


From the morning last March when this city first heard that a stage version of Tolkien's classic trilogy would be having its world premiere here, some people hoped it would be magnificent, others feared it might be foolish.

But no-one ever thought it would wind up being dull.

Yet somehow that's the most fitting word to describe what director Matthew Warchus and his colleagues have laboured so long and hard to do.

They offer non-stop music to engage our ears, endless visuals to hold our eyes prisoner and special effects to raise our pulse.

But except in fleeting moments, they haven't given us anyone or anything to care about.


Despite all its limitations, much is impressive in the stage production of The Lord of the Rings.

By and large, the power of Tolkien's tale of a magical ring and the fellowship that forms around it to prevent it from destroying the world is undiminished in this theatrical distillation.

Finally, though, it all falls victim to its own hype.

From Orcs to Ents to disappearing Hobbits, we've simply seen it all before - and none of it has been reinvented in such a way as to make it fresh.

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