Lord of the Rings Live on Stage: Update
TORONTO --- The Saul Zaentz Company's Presentation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, touted as the most expensive stage production yet, met mixed reviews Friday as critics applauded its leaping Orcs and menacing Black Riders, but lost itself somewhat in the tangled plots of Middle-earth.
The 55-member cast slipped into over 500 costumes, engaged in fight sequences and acrobatics atop a 40-ton, computer-controlled stage floor featuring 17 elevators, which spun around and rose amidst magic and illusion.
For all the feverish activiity at Toronto's Princess of Wales Theatre, the show drew only one standing ovation in over 3 hours, but many in the audience called it breathtaking and spectacular.
The C$28 million ($24 million, U.S.) show's technology was of little help to this "largely incomprehensible" musical adaptation of the Tolkien masterpiece, said Ben Brantley of The New York Times, one of several out-of-town theatre critics who had been flown to Toronto to check out the show, which is expected to move next year to London's West End, with New York's Broadway a possibility.
Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Charles McNulty commented: "Pity that the production can't be judged exclusively on its design, otherwise it would be roundly considered a hit." McNulty added, however, that despite the show's shortcomings and desperate need to be trimmed, "the good news for the investors is that commercially the project will surely pay off. Riding on the coattails of Peter Jackson's Oscar-winning movie trilogy, with its worldwide gross of some $3 billion and still counting, this type of parasitic extravaganza has a built-in audience. Today: Toronto's Princess of Wales Theatre; tomorrow: London's West End, followed by the rest of the premuim-ticket-buying world."
Richard Corliss in Time Magazine declared the show a "definitive megamusical" while the Times of London's Sam Marlowe branded it "a stirring triumph of theatrical magic .... with some fine tuning, this tale could hold its audience in total thrall."
And even the few living Tolkien family members were impressed. "I thought it was a beautiful show and I was impressed," said Rachel Tolkien, the author's granddaughter, speaking with Reuters. "Everything in the book that to me is important, or really moved me, is on the stage."
The show, scheduled to go to London in 2007, has a lot to prove --- and much will depend on the next few months, said producer Kevin Wallace, one-time in-house producer with Andrew Lloyd Webber's London-based Really Useful Group.
As your Dragonmaster explained this past Friday --- the money is all up there, right on that stage! And I stand by my prediction that, if and when this show makes it here to NYC, that it will rule the Tony Awards. It is too damn good not to. Those who believe otherwise, please send your comments to me as per usual: firstname.lastname@example.org.