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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

 
THE LORD OF THE RINGS
at The Drury Lane

MONEY ISN'T EVERYTHING
By Clive Hirschhorn

  Malcolm Storry as Gandalf

Twenty five million dollars can certainly buy you an eyeful. What it can't buy, is an earful. And that's the on-going problem with The Lord of the Rings, the troubled new musical based on J. R.R. Tolkien's meandering trilogy which only 12-year olds seem to be able to follow.

The show looks spectacular, and that's a fact. Stunning special effects do not come cheap, and with the biggest budget in the history of both the West End and Broadway at their disposal, Rob Howell, who designed the sets and the costumes and Paul Pyant, a Gandalf of the lighting board, have wrought some serious magic, turning the auditorium of Drury Lane into Middle-Earth. You will see nothing more eye-popping in the theatre for years to come.

Unfortunately, all the financial resources of Middle-Earth, Inner-Earth and Outer-Earth cannot buy a great score or an audience involving libretto. The result is a technically dazzling display of state-of-the-art, Cirque de Soleil-type spectacle fatally underpinned by too much plot and too little human interest.

The show lasts three hours-including a 20-minute intermission, but it seems much longer With the exception of a bouncy little number performed in the shire by Frodo Baggins, Sam Gangee, Pippin Took etc., prior to embarking on their intrepid adventure to return the Ring to the supernatural fires from whence it was forged, there is not a memorable tune all night. It's Wagner without the music-a real liabilitiy in what is, after all, a musical.

Given the sheer scale of the physical production, director Matthw Warchaus was clearly more concerned with the technical aspects of this behemoth than with the quality of the performances, some of which were. to be euphemistic, indifferent.

I'm told that Michael Therriault's duplicitous Gollum was astonishing in its sheer physicality, but the night I went understudy Darren Connell went on. And he was pretty good, too by far the best performance on show.

As hobbits go , James Loye does everything Tolkien would have expected, ditto Peter Howe as Froddo's gardener, traveling companion, best friend ( and maybe more). Malcolm Storry as Gandalf certainly looks the part, Laura Michelle Kelly as Galadriel has the best voice on offer, which makes it doubly frustrating she wasn't given a decent song to sing, while Jerome Paradon's Aragon makes you long for Viggo Mortensen in Peter Jackson's trilogy.

Still, if it's sheer spectacle that turns you on-whether it be the sight of an awesomely versatile revolving stage that takes the characters from one extraordinary setting to another, the horrible orcs, in full throttle, or a giant spider moving threateningly towards its prey, The Lord of the Rings certainly delivers.

 


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