Curtain falls on Lord of the Rings

Theatregoers in Toronto will say their last goodbyes to Mr. Frodo this weekend as the musical version of The Lord of the Rings takes its final bow on Sunday.

Theatregoers in Toronto said their last goodbyes to Mr. Frodo this past weekend as the musical version of The Lord of the Rings took its final bow on Sunday.

The Lord of the Rings may be the most expensive musical ever staged — with an estimated cost of$28 million — and was supposed to provide a big boost to Toronto's tourism industry.

But critics gave it mixed reviews, praising the special effects and sets but complaining the story was too long and confusing, and the box-office suffered.

David Mirvish, producer and owner of the Princess of Wales theatre, said the show's running costs alone were 50 per cent higher than its musical hit The Lion King, and the show would have had to sell out — which it did not — to recoup its production costs.

In June, the production announced it would close Sept. 3, just five and a half months after opening.

It will be reworked and restaged for London's Theatre Royal Drury Lane in May 2007.

Drop in tourism blamed

But for much of the cast, which featured Tony Award winner Brent Carver as Gandalf, Michael Therriault as Gollum and James Loye as Frodo Baggins, this will be the final curtain.

"I was sentimental about the closing, but everyone's spirit is so high," Therriault told CBC Newsworld on Friday. "The company really believed in the show."

Therriault blamed the lower ticket sales on a drop in American tourism, saying the theatre festivals at Stratford and Shaw also rely heavily on American dollars to maintain sellouts.

"The days of the 10-year run are over," he said. "We don't have the kinds of runs like in the Phantom of the Opera days."

The Lord of the Rings was a particularly ambitious project, relying on a cast of over 50 actors and a set that included a 40-tonne, computer-controlled stage floor with 17 elevators.

But sparked by the smash success of director Peter Jackson's films, the theatre version of J. R. R. Tolkien's classic fantasy trilogy of hobbits and orcs seemed a can't-miss hit. The show sold approximately $1 million in tickets in the first 24 hours they were offered.

'Lavish yet disappointing'

But when the show finally opened, the reviews were mostly mixed.

The Associated Press called it "lavish yet disappointing… a case of imagination overwhelmed by complexity."

Reviewers with U.K. newspapers The Times and The Daily Mail were kinder in their assessment of the show, which, producers hope, will translate into a warmer reception in London.

The show received some affirmation in the summer when it won seven Dora Mava Moore Awards, including for outstanding new musical. But by then, the closing date had already been announced.