The curtain officially rises on a retooled version of the epic Lord of the Rings musical in London's West End Tuesday evening.
The stage show, based on J.R.R. Tolkien's famed books, has undergone a major revamp for British audiences, following its poor reception in Toronto last year. Though expected to have a long run, it closed after just six months.
Producers had originally planned to open the musical in London, but lack of an available theatre moved the debut to Toronto. Some believe that a U.K. audience may be more receptive to the refreshed production inspired by the work of a beloved British author.
Originally criticized in Toronto for its unwieldy, nearly four-hour running time and confusing storyline, the overhauled production has been cut down to a more palatable three hours. The complicated plot, which must weave together Tolkien's vast The Lord of the Rings trilogy, has also been simplified.
The London version shifts the focus to the journey hobbits Frodo and Sam must take to destroy the cursed ring of power, with the untrustworthy Gollum leading the way. Actors James Loye, Peter Howe and Michael Therriault reprise the roles of Frodo, Sam and Gollum from the original Toronto production.
As well, more music has been added to the show, boosting the contributions of Bollywood composer A.R. Rahman and Finnish singing group Varttina.
The production'stechnologically sophisticated nature — with massive set pieces, characters that leap out into the auditorium and a complex, rotating stage that separates into sections and is raised and lowered by hydraulic lifts — remains intact.
The show began running previews at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in May. Late in the month, several performances were cancelled after an actor was injured onstage when his leg was trapped by part of the stage.
The production has been dubbed the most expensive musical in theatre history for its approximately $25-million price tag.