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Lord of the Rings musical gets mixed reviews

The musical, the most expensive production in West End history, opened to a standing ovation from its audience, and mixed reviews from the critics in London.

entertainment Updated: Jun 21, 2007 11:34 IST

The Lord of the Rings

musical, the most expensive production in West End history, opened to a standing ovation from its audience, and mixed reviews from the critics, with some praising it as brilliant and a wonder, and others calling it "a thumping great flop" and corny.

The stage adaptation of JRR Tolkien's fantasy saga officially opened on Tuesday night at London's Theatre Royal, with actors dressed as hobbits, elves and dwarfs, and pyrotechnics, special effects and a revolving stage aimed at recreating Middle Earth. The score of the musical has been composed by Indian music maestro AR Rahman.

The 12.5 million pound (US$25 million, euro18.5 million) show based on Tolkien's literary trilogy about a Hobbit named Frodo and his quest to rid Middle Earth of evil, has been trimmed and reworked since its Toronto premiere, which earned mixed reviews.

The Toronto Star

had renamed it

Bored Of The Rings

, while Variety called it "a saga of short people burdened by power jewelry."

But the London show won the praise of some critics.

The Times

called director Matthew Warchus' West End production a "wonder" and "a brave, stirring, epic piece of popular theater" complete with "charm, wit and jaw-dropping theatrical brio."


The Guardian

said, "If Tolkien's trilogy is to be a stage spectacle, I don't see how it could be better done." It also praised the acting of Malcolm Storry as Gandalf, Brian Protheroe as Saruman and Andrew Jarvis as Elrond, "whose kingly voice resonates like thunder."

Actress Dame Judi Dench, who attended the premiere with other celebrities such as Andrew Lloyd Webber and Kevin Spacey, said: "For anyone who is a Tolkien fan, it is just a terrific treat. I have never seen the films, but I am a great fan of Tolkien's writing. It has wonderful choreography and the cast worked so hard."

But some critics did not like the three-hour musical by producer Kevin Wallace. Charles Spencer of

The Daily Telegraph

said that, while Michael Therriault's "charismatic and creepy" performance as Gollum was admirable, along with those of Frodo and Sam, the show was hated by his 14-year-old son, an avid fan of the Peter Jackson

Lord of the Rings

films. "Its run, I fear, will be nasty, brutish and short," Spencer concluded.

The Independent called it an "inadequate Tolkien adaptation," and said the storytelling is rushed. Using the headline "Flawed of the Rings,"

The Sun

said the show's melodies were "tune-free" and the lyrics were "swamped" by the massive band. "Overblown, over-orchestrated and now over here," its critic said.

But the paper praised Michael Therriault's "potentially award-winning" performance as a "wheedling, whining, slithery Gollum," Peter Howe's Sam, Frodo's friend, and the costumes, sets and the "sprightly choreography." The Independent also praised Therriault as a "standout performer."

The Financial Times

said, "As for Finnish folk group Varttina's score, even with two makeovers by (Bollywood composer) A.R. Rahman and now (musical supervisor) Christopher Nightingale, it cannot muster a single memorable tune."

The Daily Mail

said, "The set changes are multifarious, the dancing exuberant, the band's brass section parps its heart out." But it also said: "British adults will find it difficult to suppress open laughter at this show's Portentous Moments. Corny is hardly the word. There's more corn here than in Kansas."

First Published: Jun 20, 2007 17:58 IST