LOTR: One Musical To Rule Them All

When I first heard the idea of a "Lord Of The Rings" musical, I figured author JRR Tolkien was most likely rolling in his grave. I pictured cheesy theatric tricks and singing hobbits, resembling those godforsaken Oompa Loompas.

Yet when I heard "Honest" Ed Mirvish's exceptional bargaining skills had paid off and the LOTR musical was set to debut in Toronto early next year, I felt a tremor of elation. Wow, something original, cool and creative comes to our city! It's about time!

Originally slated to open in London, England, LOTR has found a fertile breeding ground in the 2,000-seat Princess of Wales Theatre, which has the capacity to house this ambitious $27 Million production.

Upon probing further, I was overjoyed to read Director Matthew Warchus's comforting words. "A lot of people have said to me, 'Is it a musical?' - which is code for 'It's not a musical, is it?'" he laughs. "We're delighted to say that it's not a musical in any way you understand. And yet there will be more music, probably, in this production than possibly any show you've ever seen."

Producer Kevin Wallace added, "There will be no singing and dancing Hobbits. The music will be in a very traditional mould and draw on ethnic traditions." I'm intrigued to say the least.

The tourism industry is jumping for joy, as is the theatre community, which has suffered a seemingly irreversible slump since SARS latched onto every traveller's worst paranoia.

Despite the multitude of Canadian jobs the production will provide, you can expect this to be a very international endeavor. Director Matthew Warchus hails from England, Producer Kevin Wallace is an Irishman, Bollywood Composer AR Rahman plans to collaborate with the Finnish group Varttina, several of the actors are rumoured to be selected from England and the buzz is already thick about international tourists flooding in.

What else can we expect? For one, the largest stage production in the City's history (with over 65 cast members) plans to thrust us into the battles of Middle Earth. Matthew Warchus elaborates, "To read the novel is to experience the events of Middle-Earth in the mind's eye; to watch the films is to view Middle-Earth through a giant window; only in the theatre are we actually plunged into the events as they happen. The environment surrounds us. We participate. We are in Middle-Earth."

In addition, there will be three rotating stages and intensely choreographed battle sequences.Considering the enormous budget, costumes and scenery is sure to WOW audiences. I know there is some imminent danger in getting my hopes up... but I'm down for the adventure.

Time Table:
Casting begins immediately, with rehearsals beginning in October.
Preview performances are slated to begin in early February.
The gala opening is set for March 23, 2006.
Tickets go on sale May 15th.

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