I must admit, I was very sceptical that something like The Lord of the Rings could be adapted as a musical and fit into a 3 hour stage show and after hearing poor reviews about the Toronto show I was reluctant to spend £50 on a ticket. I’m glad I did.
The first thing you notice when you enter the theatre is that you are suddenly surrounded by the creeping branches of Fangorn Forrest:
About 30 minutes before curtain up a group of Hobbits emerged and started frolicking around on stage trying to capture fireflies and chatting to the audience in character.
So how do you transform Middle Earth and put it all on a single stage – well with the help of what must be the most sophisticated stage technology in existence they have done a remarkable job. A turntable moves the stage in both directions at once and several platforms on hydraulics rise up and down creating the illusion of climbing etc.
But what about the story? Of course there have to be massive sacrifices. The whole Weathertop scene is cut and Frodo is stabbed at the Prancing Pony instead. The character of Denethor and Theoden are fused together as one and in fact I don’t think there was a single mention of the words Rohan or Gondor throughout the entire show. Bizarrely there is a (albeit a brief) mention of Tom Bombadil, maybe in an attempt to stick two fingers up at the film producers who never satisfied fans lust to see Tom in the movies!
One thing that amused me were the Ents. They are basically people on very long stilts however it was Treebeard that made me chuckle the most. For some reason they’ve given him a thick Lancashire accent!
The Orcs are terrifying! During the short period between act II and act III they come out and pester the audience and all I could hear were girls screaming. When they are onstage they perform all sorts of neat acrobatic moves making the battle scenes very dramatic. Similarly Gollum looks fantastic and the performance from the actor playing him is great – he’s got his movements off to a fine art.
But what about the music? This is a musical after all! This was my only disappointment really, for such an epic performance the songs didn’t really meet the same standards – the lyrics weren’t very impressive and the vocals from the performers aren’t great either. I think a lot of the songs have been cut as a massive overhaul of the production to cut the run time from the 4 hours it was at Toronto to a traditional 3 hours.
All in all, I’d definitely recommend the show to anyone but would advise people to pay full price and get the best tickets in the stalls for the complete Middle Earth experience!