The world premiere musical condensation of the J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy trilogy will have a cast of 55 at Toronto's Princess of Wales Theatre. Performances begin Feb. 2, 2006.
"Having auditioned 4,000 actors over four months across Canada, followed by in-depth recall auditions with 350," the creative team — led by director Matthew Warchus and producer Kevin Wallace — announced a cast drawn from across Canada and the United Kingdom. Carver is a Canadian theatre star and a veteran of the Stratford Festival and many resident theatres there.
Director Matthew Warchus said, "Following two years of design, script and music pre-production, arriving at a cast is a thrilling and auspicious moment. I am particularly proud of the huge diversity of skill in the company. Wonderful, experienced actors will be working alongside acrobats, stilt-walkers and outstanding singers, all pooling their talents to bring this magical story alive on the stage. Given the size of the show, this is bound to be the most grueling production process any of us has been through, but when I look at this company, I am eager to begin!"
Frodo, the Hobbit ring-bearer, will be played by young British actor James Loye; Gollum will be played by Michael Therriault, a Stratford veteran and recent Leo of the Canadian staging of The Producers (he's currently in Broadway's Fiddler on the Roof); Evan Buliung will play Aragorn, the king-in-waiting; wizard Saruman, the leader of the White Council corrupted by his lust for the Ring, will be played by Richard McMillan (Scar in the Canadian Premiere production of Disney's The Lion King); Peter Howe is Sam, Frodo's faithful friend (Howe was discovered by LOTR creative team in London after he wrote to the London production office requesting an audition; this marks his professional stage debut); Canadian Dylan Roberts is Merry and Irishman Owen Sharpe is Pippin; Gabriel Burrafato (of the recent Hal Prince-supervised Evita tour) is Legolas; Dion Johnstone is Boromir; Carly Street is Arwen; Victor A. Young will play Elrond; Kerry Dorey is Théoden and Kristin Galer plays Rosie.
"It is a great privilege and honor to have Brent Carver leading our outstanding company of performers," Warchus said in a statement. "As one of the greatest actors of his generation anywhere in the world, he has demonstrated dazzling versatility and prowess on stage and screen, in every genre from musicals to classic plays. A long-time prince of Canadian theatre, he is aptly suited to be the inspiring leader and father figure to this dynamic young company. He is a unique talent. He will refresh the role entirely. And he exemplifies the guiding principal of this production: to bring the most exciting creative talents to this epic masterpiece and generate a thrilling new work of art."
"We are absolutely delighted that James Loye is bringing his unique and charismatic talent to the role of Frodo," said producer Kevin Wallace. "There is an indefinable quality about James that sets him apart as the actor fit to fulfill the momentous responsibility of creating J.R.R. Tolkien's Frodo Baggins on stage."
Of the deformed and poisoned Gollum, to be played by lean actor Michael Therriault, Warchus said, "It is obvious that Gollum requires a physically virtuosic performance — being such a darkly malformed creature. But at the center of the physicality must be superb acting; capable of capturing the extraordinary emotion, the tragedy and the unexpected warmth and comedy of this character. Celebrated as one of Canada's greatest leading actors, Michael has an intriguing originality, an unusual intensity, and a powerful focus that makes him a very exciting choice as Frodo's 'shadow' — the tormented and pitifully corrupted hobbit, Gollum. As with all the principals, Michael has been cast not least for his ability to bring this celebrated role alive on stage in a new, fresh and exciting way. It is thrilling to have him in the company."
The roles of Galadriel, Gimli and Bilbo have yet to be cast and will be announced at a later date.
The gala opening performance will be on March 23, 2006.
The producers are Kevin Wallace and Saul Zaentz in association with David & Ed Mirvish, and Michael Cohl.
The musical has book and lyrics by Shaun McKenna and Mathhew Warchus, and music by A.R. Rahman, Varttina with Christopher Nightingale (they are also the orchestrators).
Designers are Ron Howell (set and costume), Paul Pyant (lighting), Simon Baker for Autograph (sound) and The Gray Circle (moving image design). Illusions direction is by Paul Kieve.
Tolkien creative consultation is by Laurie Battle.
Musical supervision by Christopher Nightingale. Peter Darling choreographs.
Tickets ($56-$125, Canadian) are now on sale at www.lotr.com.