'LOTR' Musical: Critics don't like the precious

11524__lotr_lSo last week, I saw the so-called Lord of the Rings musical. As you may have heard, critics are divided. (Here’s an excellent, if somewhat Brit-slanted roundup. The AP review is here.) Well, not exactly divided. American stage reviewers (who aren’t yours truly) seem pretty uniformly opposed to the massive hobbit pageant now unfolding in Toronto. True, the show is musically indifferent and dramatically muddy. Its target mood is one of pleasant, meditative detachment, more of a languid boat trip down the Anduin than a ripping dash across Rohan. Its gestalt I hereby dub “Enya-esque.” Clearly, that’s not what most critics expected for an orc-ish $25 million in front money (the most ever banked on a North American stage production).

addCredit(“Lord of the Rings: Manuel Harlan”)

But fans — especially those willing to make the pilgrimage to theforbidding northern kingdom of Ka-Nah-Da — will have the final word onthis. The producers know they have less than three months to jump-starta phenomenon. The odds aren’t good, given the price tag and the generalpropensity of theatrical ventures for losing money. But I’m going to goout on a limb here and predict a big future for this show. As a friendof mine pointed out the other day, Toronto is a great place to absorbbad reviews. The dreaded Times pan, a show killer here in New York, ishardly fatal for an out-of-town production. Of course, not everyout-of-town show is under this sort of national scrutiny. But gettingskewered may help inoculate LOTRagainst future barbs: The show will be reworked massively before itgets anywhere near New York. (The London pans are actually more of aproblem, as the show was considering the U.K. as its next target.) Bythe time it arrives, it will be a comeback story.

Besides, the texture of the show is fundamentally and satisfyinglymiddle-Earthy — its main problems (in my opinion) can be solved withrecasting and judicious cuts. (They’ve got to let some subplots go.)Fans will respond to the spirit of the thing, even if major plot pointsblow by with little fanfare. And even if Aragorn looks like Walker,Texas Ranger. Oh, and by the way? We here at EW.com don’t appreciatebeing lied to. LOTR producers told us“no singing and dancing hobbits.” Well, I can confirm, singing anddancing hobbits there be. In abundance. And really, thank goodness forthat. Though I’m still disappointed they don’t rap.

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  • Anna

    I couldn’t agree with you more. The ticket buyers will be the ones to decide if this show is successful. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals are well known for their terrible reviews, yet his musicals (in particular The Phantom of the Opera) are the most successful of all time. I live near Toronto and the buzz here among theatre goers is very strong. I am seeing it in May and can’t wait!

  • Tim L

    I love how, and this isn’t the first time, you refer to Canada as some far off land of mystical mystery.
    Also, not surprised with the lack of positive reviews. The books are inherently problematic for a stage adaptation. It’s really a shame because the spirit is there, it’s the just the casting that blows.

  • mike

    I’m no expert here, but Broadway seems to suffer from the lack of originality problem Hollywood does. I’m sure rehearsals are already starting somewhere for Failure To Launch: The Musical.

  • SeangSTM

    Yeah, as someone living in Toronto, the show is gaining word of mouth quickly. The small percentage (comparitively) of people in Toronto who read the New York Times aren’t the people who are gonna see this show anyway.

  • roxie

    Quick question: Does Gollum sing?? And when can I see “X-Men: The Musical”? that’d be hawtt.

  • Len

    Critics be damned…Lord of the Rings; the Musical is SPECTACULAR and fun. I am in no way a fan of sci fi or fantasy normally, but I LOVED this production. You are simply swept away in a captivating, interesting and visually eye-popping evening that, in 3 1/2 hours, more than earns it’s $100 ticket price. Drop your snobby theatre expectations (as I had to) and go – it’s a hell of a ride!

  • Devon Bhim

    This is truly a spectacle! It has the most brilliant staging, music, and special effects. I may say that you should familarize yourself with Lord of the Rings before you see the stage adaptation, cause one could get confused. However, it does stay true to the books and not the movie. Overall, I loved it, and I am planning to see it again. I’m not even an Lord of the Rings fan, but I love the theatre.

  • Dev

    This is truly a spectacle! It has the most brilliant staging, music, and special effects. I may say that you should familarize yourself with Lord of the Rings before you see the stage adaptation, cause one could get confused. However, it does stay true to the books and not the movie. Overall, I loved it, and I am planning to see it again. I’m not even an Lord of the Rings fan, but I love the theatre.

  • Vance

    True True, I actually loved the Singing and Dancing hobbits parts the most. I want MORE singing and dancing hobbits! Major cuts still need to be made, but at its core, there is a pretty good theatrical production somewhere in there, it just needs some tightening. It’s far better than the crappy Wicked, and if Wicked can be a hit, then LOTR deserves to be.

  • LOTR fun

    True, the show is musically indifferent and dramatically muddy. It only exploit the popularity of the movie!

  • ben sarcone

    i just watched the show at the theatre royal drury lane and i must say that the visuals are spectacular. gandalfs battle with the balrog was one of the outsanding moments.the songs seemed to fit in well with the show so no complaints about that. but some moments seemed to drag a little(aragorn/arwen).overall i would recommened anyone to see this show.9/10

  • disu zjrxenblo

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  • Tiffany Stainthorpe

    I just watched the show yesturday(May 10th) and it was & is Middle-Earth!!This is the best version of LOTR out in the world today! With the films, radio show & cartoon movies, u just sit & watch what happens but the musical lets u travel with them, u feel like ur part of the fellowship as the orcs attack members of audience members & charge up and down the rows!!!The set creeps out into the audience making u a part of Middle-Earth!!! I’m going back to see this show as many times as I can before it goes to Germany & if anyone thinks its not good, go on youtube & watch the clips on offer-they don’t do it justice though it will prove how amazing it is!!!!!!

  • Joanna

    This is the musical to see if ur gonna see one! I really hope they make it into a DVD – I know they’ve filmed it cause of all the clips out they so it only makes sense that they should turn it into a DVD so that everyone has a chance to see it!

  • NanJue

    I love your writing! My friend and I are looking forward to its venture to NY but hopefully the DC area. I find nothing wrong with dancing hobbits and wish I had one in my trunk.

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