'Lord Of The Rings' To London Theatre

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Middle-earth is coming to England.

Producers announced Thursday that the lavish stage version of "The Lord of the Rings" will open in London next year — trimmed, tightened and reworked since its Toronto premiere in March.

The show, which had its world premiere at Toronto's Princess of Wales Theatre in March, opens June 19, 2007, at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, with previews beginning May 9.

The Theatre Royal's current production, Mel Brooks musical "The Producers," closes Jan. 6 after a 14-month run.

Producer Kevin Wallace said the $23 million show, which has a cast of 50, would be the most expensive ever staged in London.

"The scale of the story has demanded ingenious design," Wallace said. "It is a very expensive physical production, and it's on a scale audiences would expect to see in somewhere like Las Vegas. It's not something audiences would expect to see in the West End."

Wallace said the mammoth show, based on J.R.R. Tolkien's literary trilogy about a Hobbit named Frodo and his quest to rid Middle-earth of evil, will feature a rewritten third act and a running time cut from 3½ hours to about three hours.

The show has book and lyrics by Shaun McKenna and Matthew Warchus — who directs the London production — and music by Bollywood composer A.R. Rahman and Varttina, a Finnish folk group.

It has received mixed reviews, with some critics praising its spectacle but criticizing a lack of emotional depth. The Associated Press said it was "lavish yet disappointing ... a case of imagination overwhelmed by complexity."

Wallace said he was confident it would find an audience in Britain.

"It probably does have a European sensibility, a British sensibility, in terms of the use of text and the use of the spoken word," he said. "It's coming back to its spiritual home."
  • Milosh Marinovich

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