“ The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien's book trilogy, is now on stage at the legendary Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Thrilling music, exhilarating choreography, remarkable staging and stunning design will combine to transform Drury Lane into Tolkien's Middle-earth in a mesmerising and spectacular theatrical event featuring an ensemble of over 70 actors, singers and musicians. „
The lord of the rings trilogy is the most legendary series of books. These books cannot be compared to and have such a unique style of writing as well as story line that it cannot even be replicated again to such perfection and attention to detail. The first out of the three is the fellowship of the ring. The story is about a ring which needs to be destroyed as it contains great powers which cause the bearer to perform greedy and selfish acts. It possessess the bearer. The rings wants to go back to its owner who has set up a huge army in search for it. The second story goes more into the battle of the trilogy and the third story leads to the detruction of the ring and the retrieval of everything. Good overcomes evil. The books need to be read. I recommend these books for the older generation.
I felt very nervous when I went to see The Lord of the Rings at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
Firstly, Im probably the biggest fan of the books that I know. I re-read them once every year, and I even wrote my dissertation on Tolkien when I was at university (dont judge me). On top of that, I absolutely love musicals, and have seen and performed in more than I can count. I cant tell you how much I wanted to enjoy this.
For those of you that arent quite as big Tolkien fanatics as myself, and are unfamiliar with the story, let me provide you with a much-simplified overview of the plot:
The Lord of the Rings is essentially the tale of a hobbit (or halfling) of the Shire, called Frodo, who inherits a magical invisibility ring from his uncle Bilbo. The ring came to Bilbo on a previous adventure, in which he encountered a twisted, pitiful creature called Gollum, from whom Bilbo won the ring. Many years later, Frodo learns that the ring was originally the property of the dark lord Sauron, and that is has the power to return Sauron to his former strength as an evil dictator. Under the guidance of the wizard Gandalf, Frodo embarks upon a quest to take the ring to the land of Morder, where he must cast the ring into the depths of the fiery Cracks of Doom and destroy the ring forever, thus defeating Sauron and preventing him from rising to power ever again. Frodo is assisted on his journey by three fellow hobbits called Sam, Merry and Pippin; Gandalf the wizard; the exiled king Aragorn; Legolas the elf; Gimli the dwarf; and Boromir, man of the south.
That should be enough for you to go on. Now, back to that night at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, where I was, as I say, very nervous.
My first impression was definitely positive. A dozen hobbits danced upon the stage and frolicked in the aisles as I took to my seat, providing the audience with instant entertainment as we waited for the performance to start. The hobbits certainly looked the part, complete with hairy feet, rosy cheeks and curly wigs. The cropped, earthy-toned costumes were obviously greatly inspired by those in Peter Jacksons film adaptations, and worked very well on stage. As the final audience members were seated, the music jumped into action and the hobbits began a delightfully choreographed dance, which I felt captured the care-free, party-loving attitude of Tolkiens hobbits very well. I was left feeling highly relieved and eager for more.
Unfortunately for me, that sense of relief was to be short-lived.
The hobbits entrance provided a promising start, but what followed was far less pleasing. I could make my peace with the hobbits dubious country accents, but the characterisation of Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin (the four principal hobbits) was a deal-breaker for me. Far from the heroic, multi-layered characters of the books, the on-stage hobbits were two-dimensional and showed very little character development throughout. Particularly disappointing was James Loyes Frodo, who failed to demonstrate the steady decline of Frodos strength as the burden of the ring grew heavier. Peter Howes Sam was perhaps the only hobbit who showed character development, but his performance was often over-the-top. Far more farcical, however, was Owen Sharpes portrayal of Pippin. With his effeminate mannerisms and squeaky-pitched declarations of ooh, I dont like trees, he was easily the most annoying and pantomime-ish of the hobbits. Richard Henders Merry was simply forgettable.
Although the hobbits failed to impress, thankfully other parts succeeded in winning my approval. The undisputable star of the show was Michael Therriault for his emotionally complex and physically remarkable depiction of Gollum. Therriault won the Dora Mavor Moore Award for his portrayal of Gollum when the musical first ran in Toronto, Canada, and was subsequently shipped over by director Matthew Warchus to make his UK debut at Drury Lane. It is unsurprising that the casting team were apparently unable to find an actor who could match Therriaults performance. His voice and movement were stylistically flawless, and his representation of Gollums schizophrenia (through song, nonetheless!) was mesmerising. It is also notable that his performance was very different to that of Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in the Peter Jackson films. He truly made the part of Gollum his own, and was very deserving of the tumultuous applause he received.
Laura Michelle Kelly provided another notably strong performance as the Elven lady, Galadriel. Kelly is a fairly big name in the West End, having starred in Mary Poppins and as Eliza Dolittle in My Fair Lady. She has also recently finished filming Tim Burtons Sweeny Todd, in which she plays The Beggar Woman alongside Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. I thought Kelly was very well suited to the role of Galadriel, my only criticism being that her hand gestures were rather over-pronounced. Its unlikely that this was Kellys fault. All of the elves seemed to use a bizarre sign-language to accompany their speech, which I imagine the director thought was graceful and Elvish. Frankly, I think it just looked silly. That aside, Kelly gave a great performance, and her main solo, Lothlorien, was probably the most epic and memorable song of the night.
However, while Therriault and Kelly dazzled, other leads failed to shine. Jérôme Pradon lacked the stage presence required to play Aragorn, and was unconvincing as the wise ranger and powerful leader of men. Malcom Storry was satisfactory as Gandalf, but left me feeling somewhat under-whelmed. Legolas and Gimli were sadly reduced to background characters, and consequently much of the humour and emotion that is central to their relationship in the books was lost.
Although my feelings towards the lead characters were hot and cold, I was thoroughly impressed by the chorus actors, who worked seamlessly as an ensemble with unwavering energy. The sharp choreography and awe-inspiring acrobatics, (not to mention their umpteen costume changes as they traversed the races of Middle-earth in super-quick time), were truly remarkable. As orcs they were genuinely scary, especially when they invaded the audience. Aisle seats in the stalls are not for the faint-hearted in this show.
The design of the orcs costumes was spectacularly dark and grotesque, and like the orcs of Tolkiens world, varied from orc to orc. Some had long dangling arms, while others had springs attached to their feet, allowing them to pounce and somersault across the stage. In fact, the costumes in the show were, on the whole, exceptionally good. The design for the creepy black riders was simple but very effective: a cloaked man on stilts held the body of the horse around him, controlling the head like a puppet. Stilts were also employed for the ents, who stood at lofty heights of ten to fifteen feet.
Costume and set designer Rob Howell also deserves credit for the conception of the set design. The stage was an impressive tangle of tree branches, which spread out towards the audience and completely submerged the boxed seating areas. The staging was often mobile, with many layers rotating, rising and sinking as needed. This was very effective in conveying the characters long journeys across middle-Earth, as it provided a strong visual notion of movement and travel.
Strong praise must also go to the pairing of Gregory Meeh (special effects designer) and Paul Kieve (illusions and magic effects) for the stunning visual effects. When Bilbo used the ring to disappear in the opening scene, he literally vanished before my eyes. I would guess that the trick was devised using a gauze curtain and some cleverly placed lighting, but it was impossible from the audience to see how the effect was executed. While it was these more subtle devices that impressed me, it was still hard not be in awe of the spectacularly designed Shelob. The giant spider was essentially a simple puppet, but the effect was enough to have plenty of audience members shrinking in their seats.
Of course, a musical may have stunning costumes, staging and visual effects, but it is the music itself that is often central to a shows success. I have seen many great shows with the most basic of visuals, but that are carried on the strength and endurance of the songs and those that deliver them. The Lord of the Rings is not one of those shows. Im not saying that the music was bad, it simply wasnt memorable. Although I was pleased to learn that much of the score was composed by a Finnish contemporary folk bank called Värttinä (one of Tolkiens Elvish languages was based on the Finnish language, which Tolkien found to be beautiful with a fascinating grammatical structure), the result was still disappointing. While the Elvish music was certainly lovely to listen to, it was all a bit repetitive. The only striking song was Galadriels Lothlorien, but this was largely because Laura Michelle Kelly sang it so fantastically.
Some of the hobbits songs were entertaining, and Frodo and Sams big duet was fairly enjoyable, but none of the songs were particularly rousing or catchy. In all, Id say that the music was good for adding atmosphere, but there was nothing that made me really sit up and listen. You certainly wont find yourself humming on your way home after seeing this show.
In fact, if youre a fan of the books, youre more likely to leave the show grumbling about the butchery that Tolkiens books have suffered. Obviously I appreciate that condensing three 500-page novels into a three-hour show will require a fair bit of trimming, especially if numerous songs need to be squeezed into the mix as well. But to ruthlessly cut out major places and characters from a story that has been voted the best-loved in Britain many times, seems a tad unwise.
In terms of faithfulness to the book, the first act wasnt too bad. Plenty had been cut, but the essentials were all there (with the main exception of Tom Bombadils chapters, but as he was axed in the film versions, I was hardly surprised to discover that he got the chop in the musical adaptation as well). However, when Act One ended with Gandalfs climactic confrontation of the Balrog, I was somewhat concerned. After all, this is a scene that appears barely three-quarters of the way in to The Fellowship of the Ring. How would Matthew Warchus, the director, manage to squeeze the rest of the first book, and all of The Two Towers and The Return of the King into just two more (substantially shorter) acts?
The answer is simple. He didnt.
A quick glance at my programs cast list would have prepared me for the nasty shock that followed the interval. No Theoden. No Denethor. No Faramir. No Éomer. Even Éowyn, the only fully-formed female character in the books, fails to make an appearance. Éowyns defeat of the Witch-king of Angmar (the leader of Saurons black riders) is one of my favourite moments in the books, and I was sad to see such a powerful scene to go missing from the stage adaptation.
The lands of Rohan and Minas Tirith were sadly cut completely and replaced by the generic lands of men. The characters of Theoden and Denethor were crudely combined to form the steward of the lands of men, who resembles Theoden in personality but, like Denethor, is a steward and Boromirs father. He features briefly: Gandalf releases him from Sarumans spell in about ten seconds, and the steward instantly jumps to his feet ready to aid the fellowship. The stewards story is very anticlimactic when compared to the fates of Theoden and Denethor in the books, and I doubt members of the audience who hadnt read The Lord of the Rings would even remember his presence in the show.
Other characters were not cut out completely, but their scenes were heavily abbreviated. The ents feature for a few short minutes, and were positively hasty when compared to their on-page counterparts, in a rushed scene that completely contradicted the notion that ents are slow and thoughtful: We ents dont say anything unless its worth taking a very long time to say it, Michael Hobbs Treebeard hurries.
Even the presence of a Tolkien expert, Laurie Battle, as literary consultant to the creative team, couldnt save the story. For me, and Im sure many Tolkien fans will agree, the magic of The Lord of the Rings lies in the characters, story, and the detail of the world that Tolkien has created. Clever special effects and a budget of 25 million pounds might make a visually impressive show, but if the story and the songs are lacking, it will never be a true success. Perhaps another director could have done a better job, but I suspect The Lord of the Rings is a story that could never be adapted for the stage successfully.
On a final note, Id like to recall one of Gandalfs last scenes, in which he informed the hobbits that he was off to see Tom Bombadil (this is the first and last reference to the character, who features in the book of The Fellowship of the Ring and was somewhat controversially removed from the film adaptations). This was a throw-away and pointless line, which could only confuse those who hadnt read the books, and irritate those who had. You could practically hear Matthew Warchus shouting from back-stage, Ive kept Tom Bombadil in Ha! Ive beaten Peter Jackson.
No you havent, Warchus. You really havent.
The Lord of the Rings: The Musical is on stage at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, which is close to Charing Cross tube and train stations.
The official website for the musical is www.lotr.com or you can call 0870 890 6002 to book.
Monday evenings at 7.00pm
Tuesday to Saturday evenings at 7.30pm
Saturday matinees at 2.00pm
Thursday matinees at 2.00pm from 28 June
Extra matinees on Monday 24 and Monday 31 December at 1.30pm
No evening performance 24 December.
No performances 25 December.
Stalls £60.00, £50.00
Grand Circle £60.00
Upper Circle £42.50, £35.00
Balcony £27.50, £20.00, £15.00
Saw the production last night. By far the worst musical or play I've ever seen. The story was dull, the music weak and the acting terrible. The special effets did their best to compensate for a while, but you can't hide behind them for three hours. If you're thinking about seeing this musical - DON'T. It will be one of the worst evenings of your lives. I had a few stiff drinks during the interval and even this didn't help. In a word - its painful.
The Lord of the Rings films didn't win an award for nothing so how does the theatre production match up to the true story? I went to see it on it's third night of showing at London's Theatre Royal Drury Lane, you could say it was pretty good.
Certainly the theatre production is everything you would expect, elaborate, fast paced (due to a shortening of the story), dynamic and makes good entertainment for all. The tale tells of a hobbit whose mission it is to destroy a powerful and evil ring, in a fantasy-like world. While the theatre is particularly true to the actual story, especially the ending which the film omits, it thankfully manages to miss out some little bits that would have made it incredibly long otherwise. Notably, the trees fighting with rocks battle would have made it hard to feature on stage anyway.
While it was very fast paced at the beginning and almost seemed slightly rushed with not enough emphasis on why the ring is so dangerous, after the interval things started to pick up and become more exciting with lots of action, fighting included.
Highlights were Bilbo Baggins mysteriously disappearing at the beginning when he puts on the ring, and it certainly didn't look like he fell through the door... he just vanished. One could only wonder how they managed to do that.
Acrobatics played a good part as well, the actors making use of the air as well as the floor, such as Gollum's cousin swimming through the water from the ceiling, and elves hanging from the ceiling on thick ribbons. And besides Gollum being very entertaining with his split conscious/personality and his erratic body movements to convey this, the Orcs were good as well, their costumes as menacing as they are meant to be and while the use of stilts was used to create a certain movement, at times they looked like monkeys.
The stage is the mid section of a tree trunk when it is cut, covered by dark vines on the walls. Since it was the third night showing and there were a couple of accidental hiccups, notably one of the benches snapping in half towards the end of the dance and music, the actors were very enthusiastic and made good use of the ever changing stage space, whether it be through the choreography or traveling. The moving stage itself is cleverly made up of lots of levels or 'elevators' that raise up the air to visually divide what is happening on stage, and it has particularly good use for the volcano scene.
What is most incredible of all, and what the production might not have been as good without, is the cunning use of lighting to create different moods, atmosphere and weather - from the volcanic terrain of Mordor and the lush greenery of the forest, to the windy cold blizzard with the arrival of the Black Knights.
Singing was mostly female throughout where something dramatic was happening though it seemed slightly repetitive at times, though the music however was generally fitting and typically 'epic' and when concerned with the elves, almost ethereal. The fighting was mute and conveyed more of a dance than a fight.
As I watched this performance from the balcony (highly unrecommended because of the distance and inability to see the actors faces as well as the cramped seats), the people down by the front on the stage level were getting a lot more interaction from the ongoings of stage and shrieks from children could be heard when they spotted a giant spider on stage and when at the interval the Orcs playfully scared them by prancing up and down the aisles. From the balcony it was also difficult at times to distinguish who was who from Gandalf the White and Saruman both in white long shifts and at a distance, the only thing to distinguish them is the colour of their staffs. At times when there was a crowd on stage it was hard to spot who was talking from such a distance.
Some of the characters were pretty weak and not as strong as they should be, though Gandalf was the exception as he seemed to prove to be the leader, but perhaps this is down to the fact that I saw it on only its third night of showing.
All in all the performance prompted a few laughs, especially from the theatrics of Gollum and Pippin (?) who is scared of trees, the whole thing had clearly been well rehearsed with everything being on cue and it seems that it is a very high budget production. What makes it slightly different of course is the musical aspect of it but whether you enjoy this is down to personal taste. One can't help thinking that the production did fall ever so slightly short of its 'hype' and while it was true to the story, call me a critic but I for one wasn't particularly blown away.
Hardcore Lord of the Rings fans: If you want to be whisked away for three hours to a fantasy action fairytale adventure go see this, don't go with standards of high expectation or you may not come out smiling and please don't buy the cheapest seats and then you're almost guaranteed to enjoy it.
>> location: London's Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
>> Ticket prices: depends what seat you get but eh prices are steadily rising for this and the priciest tickets are about £55+