So 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).
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.