Lord of the Rings Musical Is Something Precious to Theatregoers; Sales Hit $7 Million

News   Lord of the Rings Musical Is Something Precious to Theatregoers; Sales Hit $7 Million
 
In the first week of sales toward the February 2006 Toronto world premiere of the musical The Lord of the Rings, theatregoers snapped up $7 million (Canadian) in tickets, a spokesperson for the Toronto producers confirmed.

Tickets to the lavish stage musical went on sale May 15 — nine months before its premiere. Interest from U.S. theatregoers was reported as intense.

The $27 million (Canadian) production condenses the three fantasy novels by J.R.R. Tolkien — "The Fellowship of the Ring," "The Two Towers" and "The Return of the King" — into one 3-1/2-hour event, premiering at Toronto's Princess of Wales Theatre Feb. 2, 2006, toward an opening night of March 23, 2006.

The burst of sales in the first 24 hours (an exclusive internet offer starting 9 AM May 15 resulted in $1 million) was an early suggestion that there will be a healthy crossover of the many fans who cherish the trilogy of fantasy novels and its motion picture spinoffs.

The Lord of the Rings is a Kevin Wallace Limited Production, presented by Kevin Wallace and Saul Zaentz, in association with David and Ed Mirvish and Michael Cohl.

* Mavens who can recite passages of the best-selling books have been heartened by the news that the show will seek to musically create the otherworldly quality of the quest tale rather than serve up Jerry Herman-esque numbers.

One might cringe imagining a quirky show tune of sweet admonition from Frodo called "Oh, Sam!," about hobbit pal Sam's dogged faithfulness. Don't expect it: Traditional musical theatre is not what India's most popular composer, A.R. Rahman, and the Finnish group Värttinä, collaborating with Christopher Nightingale, write.

What would the elves sing? What is the sound a hobbit dances to? Can an orc carry a tune?

Expect varied Asian- and European-influenced sounds to suggest the many tribes of the story.

The book and lyrics are by Shaun McKenna and Matthew Warchus.

The international creative team is led by acclaimed director Matthew Warchus (Broadway's recent True West, Life x 3, Follies and Art) and includes award-winning designer Rob Howell (set and costumes) and choreographer Peter Darling.

Casting is ongoing. International performers are being sought, as long as they can work legally in Canada. Auditions continue throughout the summer, with rehearsals scheduled to begin in October 2005.

The auditions have been so physically demanding that actors have passed out in the process.

The show will boast an ensemble of 65 actors, singers and musicians, and condenses the three "Rings" novels into one 3-1/2-hour event.

"Teams of engineers, carpenters, painters, welders, prop-makers, armorers, cutters and seamstresses are focusing their efforts on realizing the design for the stage," according to production notes. "After an eight-month build, Rob Howell's inventive and spectacular stage floor, weighing 30 tons and costing $1.2 million (Canadian), is nearing completion in the U.K., ready for shipping to Toronto."

In production notes, director Warchus said, "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 as though 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."

Of the casting, which began in recent weeks, producer Kevin Wallace said in a statement, "The ensemble of actors we engage for The Lord of the Rings will come from different backgrounds. The text requires classical actors; the songs demand a unique vocal style from the company. Many of the acting company will be multi-skilled with acting, vocal and/or physical theatre skills. As all the species of Tolkien's Middle -earth — hobbits, elves, orcs, men, etc, will appear on stage, the actors have to be sufficiently physically adept to take on the diverse characteristics of each…

"In addition there are some spectacular sequences that require members of the ensemble to have specialist circus and/or stage-combat skills. Therefore, we are also looking for a core group of these specialist performers to join the company."

As the Hobbits of the tale are child-sized creatures, men who are 5-foot-7-inches or shorter are being sought. To play the warrior folk, men must be 5-foot-11-inches or taller.

"Only Canadian citizens or those eligible to work in Canada need apply," according to a casting notice.

The creative team includes Simon Baker (sound), The Gray Circle (moving image design), Paul Kieve (illusions direction), Laurie Battle (Tolkien creative consultation). Christopher Nightingale (musical supervision). Orchestrations are by Nightingale, A.R. Rahman and Värttinä.

Ticket prices range $56-$125 (Canadian). For ticket information, visit www.lotr.com or call TicketKing at (416) 872-1212 or (800) 461-3333. For group inquiries, call (416) 593-4142 or (800) 724-6420.

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