The Lord of the Rings – A Musical Tale, the multi award-winning musical production that has been wowing theatregoers in the UK over the past 12 months, is set for a USA debut in Chicago starting this July.

Paul Hart, who created the acclaimed 2023 staging at the UK’s Watermill Theatre, will also oversee the production at Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s The Yard.

“I can’t wait for this next step in the epic journey of The Lord of the Rings as we craft this new staging for the US premiere production with Chicago Shakespeare Theater for Chicago audiences,” Mr Hart said.

“We loved creating this version which was retold from the perspective of the Hobbits at The Watermill and will now be expanded far beyond those horizons. It will be thrilling to share with new audiences internationally as part of this next stage”

Sam – Nuwan Hugh Perera – and Frodo – Louis Maskell – with Gollum – Matthew Bugg – sneaking in the background… (Photography Pamela Raith)

“Sharing the Watermill’s wonderful expression of The Lord of the Rings on stage with audiences across the globe beginning this summer in Chicago, with the US premiere of Paul Hart’s and Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s collaborative re-imagining, is a dream come true,” says Fredrica Drotos of LOTR theatre-production rights-holder Middle-earth Enterprises.

Just this January, this latest musical retelling of Frodo’s quest scooped eight BroadwayWorld UK/West End awards, including Best New Production of a Musical.

TORn’s own Staffer greendragon gave the Watermill staging a solid thumbs-up in her review last year, while it has also received critical plaudits from The Guardian, The Telegraph, and The Mail on Sunday.

The staging is incredibly inventive, with cast moving through the auditorium – and even climbing over it. Stunning puppets create suitably terrifying Ringwraiths and an astonishing Shelob. Elrond causes the river to rise, the doors of Moria glow, even the Balrog appears; every theatrical trick and device is called into play, including impressive lighting and projections, to create Middle-earth in front of and around the audience – and those watching the night I was there were clearly loving it.

Staffer greendragon

“Paul Hart’s production is something rather wizard… it is filled with battles, fellowship, adventure and emotional intimacy. Terrific lighting, projections and puppetry play a huge part.”

The Mail on Sunday

The Lord of the Rings – A Musical Tale features book and lyrics by Shaun McKenna and Matthew Warchus and original music by Academy Award winner A.R. Rahman (Bombay Dreams, Slumdog Millionaire), Finnish folk band Värttinä, and Tony Award winner Christopher Nightingale (Matilda the Musical).

The Chicago season is slated to run from July 19 to September 1 and further global dates and venues will be announced in June. Get your tickets via the official lotrmusical site here.

We’ve teamed up with our good friends at Oscha, who are exclusively licensed to make a range of Middle-earth™ inspired goodies, to giveaway this beautiful throw! 

Inspired by the classic illustrations of Middle-earth, this stunning pattern was hand drawn by Oscha’s designers and shows Mordor™ to The Lonely Mountain™, and from the Belegaer™ sea to Forodwaith™: the length and breadth of Middle-earth.

If you’re a regular TORn follower, you’ll have seen Oscha’s treasures before – we’re huge fans of their stunning work. We’re also very excited that their Oscha Wear range is back, including clothes for Men, Women, Children and a range of baby grows! Check out the entire collection here. Just in time for holiday shopping!

The giveaway for this gorgeous throw is open worldwide; Oscha will choose a winner a random, and will ship to that lucky person wherever in the world they may be!

To be in with a chance of winning simply sign up here.

The giveaway ends 10am ET (3pm GMT), November 3rd. The winner will be contacted by Oscha.

Good luck!

As you no doubt know by now, there is a new production of The Lord of the Rings musical currently playing at The Watermill Theatre; it opened July 25th and runs until October 15th. Last week, staffer greendragon ventured into the Berkshire countryside and found herself in the Shire. Here’s her review of the production:

Sam – Nuwan Hugh Perera – and Frodo – Louis Maskell – with Gollum – Matthew Bugg – sneaking in the background… (Photography Pamela Raith)

The Lord of the Rings restaged

When The Lord of the Rings musical first appeared, in all its (at the time) ‘most expensive musical ever’ glory, I went to see it in London. I was not convinced. The extravagant, elaborate staging could not conceal the fact that the songs were not particularly memorable, and it just seemed like Tolkien’s story wasn’t really suited to this kind of telling. It was not surprising when the show was not the hoped for success.

Rediscovering the piece, in its new, MUCH smaller and more intimate staging, I am closer to being convinced. First of all, the setting is stunning. The audience arrive in a beautiful, bucolic location, where food and drink can be enjoyed by a slowly winding river. A large ring of woven willow decorates the front lawn of the venue. As show time approaches, everyone heads to behind the building – following signs to the ‘birthday party’. So the performance begins outside – where we are all guests at a Long-expected Party. (Though for some reason, it was referred to as a ‘long awaited party’. Perhaps this was a slip of the tongue? As this production is fully licensed by Middle-earth Enterprises, they certainly have the right to use the Professor’s phrase.)

The Shire is the perfect place for music, and so the show gets off to a very strong start. We are swept up in the party atmosphere; I delighted in seeing the Sackville-Bagginses looking suitably annoyed when they learned that Bilbo was making Frodo his heir, and Bilbo’s disappearance was very well handled. As the Shire-folk rushed around, wondering where he had gone, we joined them in their search – heading inside to the rustic wooden theatre.

This very small auditorium – with just under 100 seats downstairs and about the same again upstairs – is brilliantly used in every way possible to tell the epic story. The staging is incredibly inventive, with cast moving through the auditorium – and even climbing over it. Stunning puppets create suitably terrifying Ringwraiths and an astonishing Shelob. Elrond causes the river to rise, the doors of Moria glow, even the Balrog appears; every theatrical trick and device is called into play, including impressive lighting and projections, to create Middle-earth in front of and around the audience – and those watching the night I was there were clearly loving it.

Gimli – Folarin Akinmade – sings a lament in Moria. (Photography Pamela Raith)

An outstanding cast

The cast were mostly excellent. Stand outs for me were Nuwan Hugh Perera as a funny, warm, pitch-perfect Samwise; John O’Mahony’s charming Bilbo; and Matthew Bugg, whose astonishingly athletic and aggressive Gollum managed to be fully his own embodiment of the character, rather than being trapped in an Andy Serkis impression. I loved Folarin Akinmade’s Gimli, and wished the script allowed more time for his relationship with Legolas (Yazdan Qafouri) to be played out; one very touching moment between them towards the end of the show made me want more of these characters. Peter Dukes (Boromir) and Aaron Sidwell (Aragorn) were particularly moving in Boromir’s death scene. Louis Maskell didn’t entirely convince me as Frodo, being perhaps slightly overwrought; but it’s a demanding role which carries much of the show, and overall he proved himself equal to the task. Peter Marinker as Gandalf seemed to be still finding his way into the role, in the early performance I saw.

Condensing the plot

If you’re a Tolkien purist, you’ll may find fault with this version of the story. To fit the entire plot into one evening of theatre naturally requires much pruning and condensing – poor Tom Bombadil and Celeborn don’t make the cut, again! Denethor and Theoden are blended into one, as are the battles of Helm’s Deep and the Pelennor Fields. I think the condensation of the story is skilfully handled; I was more bothered, in a picky purist sort of a way, by the Hobbits wearing sandals – though I do understand the need for safety for actors’ feet!

The costuming – with influences of Bollywood in the elven outfits – is similar to the original production, and the revolving stage is still there (albeit in much smaller form). The show looks and sounds stunning; the cast are also the band, and though it may sound like a strange idea, somehow it works seamlessly when Pippin (the charming and highly energetic Amelia Gabriel) picks up an accordion and starts to play. Certainly in the Shire and at Bree, the songs work wonderfully. I’m still not sure about the rest of the music. Retelling such an intense, literary tale in musical form is not easy; Les Miserables comes to mind as the most obvious, successful literature-to-musical transformation. The writers of The Lord of the Rings musical haven’t quite pulled off this difficult transition, for me. It just doesn’t seem entirely plausible when Arwen and Aragorn sing a (rather Disney-ish) love duet on the eve of battle; but perhaps I’m just cynical.

A climax, and a tearjerker ending

The one song which stayed with me from the original production was Now and for Always – and that is still the high point of the show, beautifully and movingly performed. As the show approached its end, and the Hobbits returned to the Shire, to clear up the damage caused by Sharkey and his ruffians, we headed back outside with them. A sail was now unfurled where once a party banner had been; and I was moved to tears as Frodo made his farewells, and left Sam to carry on the story.

The lights in the party tree… (Photography greendragon)

In spite of my few misgivings, overall this is a beautiful, moving evening of theatre, and a wonderful chance to immerse yourself in Tolkien’s great story. It’s worth the price of admission just to be transported to the Shire. I imagine the producers may be hoping this production will transfer elsewhere after its run at the Watermill Theatre; but even if it does, this is the perfect setting in which to see it. Do go, if you can.

The Lord of the Rings will play at the Watermill from Tuesday 25 July until Sunday 15 October 2023.  Tickets are on sale via watermill.org.uk/The-Lord-Of-The-Rings

The brand new production of The Lord of the Rings musical is almost here! The show opens next week, Tuesday July 25, at The Watermill Theatre, near Newbury in Berkshire. To whet appetites, a musical video has been released – and it’s an absolute delight, sure to transport you back to the Shire. Take a look:

Don’t miss the chance to see this charming and moving re-tellling of the beloved story; grab your tickets now!

The Lord of the Rings will play at the Watermill from Tuesday 25 July until Sunday 15 October 2023.  Tickets are on sale via watermill.org.uk/The-Lord-Of-The-Rings

Back in March we let you know that a new production of The Lord of the Rings musical was in the works. It will be performed at The Watermill Theatre, near Newbury in Berkshire, July 25 to Oct 15 this year. Tickets for this highly anticipated production are available now! Here’s the latest information on cast and crew for this exciting production, from the official press release:

THE LORD OF THE RINGS FULL CASTING AND CREATIVE TEAM ANNOUNCED

25 JULY – 15 OCTOBER

BOOK ONLINE AT WATERMILL.ORG.UK OR VIA THE BOX OFFICE ON 01635 46044

Newbury’s The Watermill Theatre is thrilled to announce the full cast of their upcoming musical; a brand-new production of THE LORD OF THE RINGS, a musical tale based on the classic trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, with book and lyrics by Shaun McKenna and Matthew Warchus and music by A.R. Rahman (Bombay DreamsSlumdog Millionaire), Värttinä and Tony Award winner and Grammy nominated Christopher Nightingale (Matilda the Musical).

With the production set across both the Watermill auditorium and gardens, audiences will be immersed in the magical landscape of Middle-earth, joining an ensemble cast and large-scale puppets on an epic journey celebrating the power of friendship and common goodness to conquer unimaginable evil.

The full cast are Folarin Akinmade (Perfect Show for Rachel – The Pit, Barbican) as ‘Gimli’, Matthew Bugg (Zorro the Musical – Charing Cross Theatre) as ‘Gollum’, Reece Causton (Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man – UK Tour) as ‘Ensemble’, Kelly Coughlin (Avenue 5 – HBO/Sky) as ‘Ensemble’, Geraint Downing (A Christmas Carol – The Old Vic Theatre) as ‘Merry’, Peter Dukes (Brief Encounter – Empire, Haymarket) as ‘Boromir’, Amelia Gabriel (Ride – VAULT Festival) as ‘Pippin’, Tom Giles (Miss Littlewood – Royal Shakespeare Company) as ‘Elrond/Saruman’, Charlotte Grayson (Whistle Down The Wind – The Watermill Theatre) as ‘Rosie’, Nuwan Hugh Perera (Life of Pi – Wyndham’s Theatre, West End) as ‘Sam’, Bridget Lappin (The Rhinegold – English National Opera) as ‘Ensemble/Dance Captain’, Georgia Louise (Tammy Faye – Almeida Theatre) as ‘Galadriel’, Elliot Mackenzie (Whistle Down The Wind – The Watermill Theatre) as ‘Ensemble’, Peter Marinker (Judge DreddLove, ActuallyLabyrinth) as ‘Gandalf’, Louis Maskell (The Grinning Man – Bristol Old Vic & Trafalgar Studios, West End) as ‘Frodo’, Aoife O’Dea (Innocence – Royal Opera House) as ‘Arwen’, John O’Mahony (Fisherman’s Friends the Musical, UK Tour) as ‘Bilbo’, Yazdan Qafouri (The Band – Theatre Royal Haymarket, West End) as ‘Legolas’, Sioned Saunders (Amélie – Criterion Theatre, West End & The Watermill Theatre) as ‘Ensemble/Onstage Musical Director’ and Aaron Sidwell (EastEnders – BBC, Wicked – UK Tour) as ‘Aragorn’.

The Lord of the Rings will play at the Watermill from Tuesday 25 July until Sunday 15 October 2023.  Tickets are on sale via watermill.org.uk/The-Lord-Of-The-Rings

As the Hobbits celebrate Bilbo Baggins’ eleventy-first birthday, he gifts his nephew Frodo his inheritance – including his most precious belonging – a gold ring. Little does he know that his legacy will confront Frodo with an immense and impossible task; a perilous journey across the darkest realms of Mordor to foil the Dark Lord’s quest for total dominion. 

Paul Hart said, “Welcoming the cast and creative teams into rehearsals this week has been hugely exciting.  The Lord of the Rings is one of the most epic stories ever written, and our production will hopefully bring audiences closer to the heart of this story than ever before – both figuratively and literally in our intimate 200 seat theatre.  What’s central to this production is that we’re telling it through the perspective of the Hobbits and hopefully audiences will experience our depiction of Middle-earth with the same awe and wonderment. We’re so fortunate to be working with an incredible creative team and a truly multi-skilled group of performers and we’re determined to make a piece of theatre that will live long in the memory of all who see it!”

Claire Murray said, “For twelve weeks, we are welcoming audiences to experience this incredible musical in our very special corner of West Berkshire. We’re so excited to welcome new audiences to the theatre, coming from far and wide to visit our beautiful grounds for the first time, as well as our wonderful and loyal audiences who have visited us many times before, to see us using our space in a new and exciting way.  With the design of the show spilling out from the theatre across our gardens, audiences will be welcomed into the Shire for dinner and drinks in our Restaurant or Garden Café on the lawn, before joining in the celebrations for Bilbo’s birthday which marks the start of the show.  Any production is a team effort, and we’re so grateful to our wider community for their support, particularly those who are so kindly hosting our thirty-strong company this summer, and all those who are sharing in our excitement.

Fredrica Drotos, Director of Brand and Licensing at Middle-earth Enterprises added; “Middle-earth Enterprises along with our good partners at Kevin Wallace Ltd can’t imagine a more fitting locale for the live staging of the Fellowship’s epic adventures from the Shire to Mordor, and back again, than at the Watermill Theatre, set in the bucolic Berkshire countryside.”

The Lord of the Rings will be directed by Paul Hart with design by Simon Kenny, Musical Supervision and Orchestrations by Mark Aspinall, Choreography by Anjali Mehra, Lighting Design by Rory Beaton, Sound Design by Adam Fisher, Projection Design by George Reeve, Associate Directed by Sibylla Archdale Kalid, Puppet Design by Charlie Tymms, and Puppetry Direction by Ashleigh Cheadle. The stage management team are Cat Pewsey (CSM), Katie Newton (DSM), Natalie Toney and Fern Bamber (ASMs) with –Leila Stephenson (ASM Placement).

The Watermill is a 200-seat regional powerhouse, with an unparalleled reputation for producing bold, world-class theatre with local and national reach from its home in West Berkshire. It also has an extensive programme of community outreach, and schools touring work, and a firm commitment to inclusion, environmental sustainability and talent development. 

“Tired he is, thirsty he is, yes thirsty; and he guides them and he searches for paths, and they say sneak, sneak.” (The Two Towers: The Stairs of Cirith Ungol)

First teased in 2020, expected in 2022, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum game will finally be released May 25th this year. Jeremy Edmonds (@TolkienGuide) represented TORn at a recent virtual event with Daedalic Entertainment; he shares his thoughts on the upcoming game:

A few weeks ago, Daedalic invited TheOneRing.net and others to a special hands-on playthrough session of The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, followed by a Q&A session with Tolkien lore expert Damiri Knapheide.  With almost an hour of playtime across many levels, I had the chance to see a bit of the world they have created, and the lovely chat with Damiri did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for a full playthrough on release day, May 25th.

As a casual gamer on the best of days, I was not the easiest guest for our hosts to guide through each level – we had many a laugh at my ineptitude with various controller skills, but I was still having a blast, and didn’t feel like I was in over my head or wouldn’t enjoy the game at my own speed and skill level.  The gameplay is focused on stealth, but I was here for the story driven experience – seeing Mirkwood and Mordor through the eyes of talented artists, who clearly have a passion and deep respect for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit

The team chose as their backdrop the period of time between Bilbo’s escape from the goblins in The Hobbit, and when the fellowship enters the Mines of Moria in The Lord of the Rings.  What happened with Sméagol/Gollum in those years? The books tell us a few tidbits of information, for example through Gandalf’s exposition and in the Appendices – this game connects those dots into a coherent story. The dual (dueling?) personalities are at the forefront in this game’s morality system, with many opportunities to choose different actions and responses based on your preference for whether you feel like Slinker or Stinker (Sam’s words) at the time.  These choices affect the game play significantly – we were told that one level is completely different based on your morality choices to that point.  

I was impressed with the narrative department at Daedalic, represented in this session by Damiri Knapheide.  It’s a tough job with many people watching carefully – complex rights issues around books (some usable, some not), movie and media representations, and a very particular fan-base.  Damiri’s passion and knowledge were obvious to me, and I definitely look forward to having more opportunities to chat with him informally in the future if the opportunity arises.  Even in the brief hour I had to wander in their game, there were scores of subtle background nods to the wider corpus, and backstories for prominent lore figures that were alive at this time.

With an estimated 25-30 hour playthrough time and the chance to play multiple times making different choices in the morality system, I only had a glimpse of all the game has to offer.  A challenge with a game of this nature, squeezed in between two fixed points in time and character development, the question remains – can Daedalic tell a good story, where your choices have an impact, and yet end with the same Sméagol/Gollum as we know him when he meets up with Frodo and Sam in the books? I look forward to finding out.

Be sure to check out the new story trailer on YouTube.

Here is today’s press announcement for the game release:

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum™ Slinks Out of the Shadows on May 25th

The story-driven adventure across Middle-earth arrives this May for PC and consoles— Sméagol will swear it on the Precious!

Hamburg, Germany, March 23rd, 2023 – Today Daedalic Entertainment and NACON announced that their highly anticipated adventure game, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, will release to PC, PlayStation, and Xbox on May 25th. A version for Nintendo Switch™ is planned for later this year. Based on the beloved The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, the fantasy game takes players on an epic journey across Middle-earth, starring one of the lore‘s most compelling characters: Sméagol – *Gollum, Gollum*.

Check out fresh gameplay from Middle-earth, with insights from the developers inspired by the iconic lore.  Daedalic and Nacon will stream a special showcase at 06:30 pm CET on Twitch today. 

The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is a story-driven action adventure. Embark on a perilous journey as Gollum, chasing the only thing that is precious to you. Climb, leap, and sneak your way past dangers or into advantageous spots. Gollum is skillful and sly, and torn by a split personality. It is up to you to decide whether to yield to the darker side of Gollum or trust the kinder gentler hint of Sméagol. 

Co-published by Daedalic Entertainment and NACON, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is developed by a small team of passionate Tolkienites at Daedalic Entertainment in partnership with Middle-earth Enterprises. The game will release on PC, PlayStation®4, PlayStation®5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch™. A physical edition for consoles will also be available.

The new story trailer on Youtube.

###

About NACON

NACON is a company of the BIGBEN Group founded in 2019 to optimize its know-how through strong synergies in the video game market. By bringing together its 16 development studios, the publishing of AA video games, the design and distribution of premium gaming devices, NACON focuses 30 years of expertise at the service of players. This new unified business unit strengthens NACON’s position in the market and enables it to innovate by creating new unique competitive advantages. https://corporate.nacongaming.com/

About Daedalic Entertainment

Daedalic Entertainment publishes and develops high-quality games for all platforms. The company has a diverse line-up of high-quality titles, including classic adventures, RPGs, and strategy and multiplayer games. With an international team of around 100 employees, Daedalic is currently developing a new line-up of innovative games across consoles, PC, and mobile platforms. 

Based in Hamburg, Germany, Daedalic is one of Europe’s most acclaimed publishers and developers. With a total of 32 awards in the German Developers Award (including multiple accolades for ‘Studio of the Year’) and 12 German Computer Game Awards for genre-defining games such as Deponia, Edna & Harvey, Silence, Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth, The Long Journey Home, and State of Mind, Daedalic is a record holder for the two most prestigious game awards in Germany. Recent publishing hits include Barotrauma, Unrailed!, Iratus: Lord of the Dead, Partisans 1941 and more. 

Daedalic is currently developing The Lord of the Rings – Gollum. The story-driven adventure tells the story of Gollum from a perspective never witnessed before in any storytelling media, all the while staying faithful to the legendary books of J.R.R. Tolkien. 

 About Middle-earth Enterprises

 Middle-earth created by J.R.R. Tolkien is the definitive, deepest, richest and most beloved fantasy world of our time.  As its stewards and custodians, our goal is to consistently deliver a wealth of great content in both new, and known formats; to ensure Middle-earth’s rightful place as the world’s leading fantasy IP and brand, forever.

Inspired by our deep appreciation for the fictional world created by Professor Tolkien, we are dedicated to working with those providing highest quality products in accordance with best green business and sustainability practices, including fair trade, equality in the workplace, and a commitment to protect our earth, its wondrous beauty and the viability of every living creature.  Middle-earth Enterprises has been producing and licensing films,  merchandise, services, and live stage productions based upon The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit books, for more than four decades. www.middleearth.com.