June 20, 2007 / 10:17 AM / 11 years ago

London "Lord of the Rings" show splits critics

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - London’s version of “The Lord of the Rings” musical, touted as the most expensive show ever staged, has divided critics whose reviews on Wednesday both praised and panned the production.

"The Lord Of The Rings" actor Michael Therriault, playing the role of "Gollum", takes his curtain call after the world premiere performance at Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto in this file photo dated March 23, 2006. London's version of "The Lord of the Rings" musical, touted as the most expensive show ever staged, has divided critics whose reviews on Wednesday both praised and panned the production. REUTERS/Mike Cassese

The Lord of the Rings closed early in Toronto, where it was launched in 2006, after opening to mixed reviews. The new version is shorter than the original and, in the view of Sam Marlowe of the Times newspaper, better.

He called the show “a brave, stirring, epic piece of popular theatre that, without slavishly adhering to J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels, embraces their spirit.

“The show has charm, wit, and jaw-dropping theatrical brio; crucially, it also has real emotional heft.”

Michael Billington of the Guardian broadsheet largely agreed, also giving the musical four out of five stars.

“I had a perfectly good time at Drury Lane, and, if Tolkien’s trilogy is to be a stage spectacle, I don’t see how it could be better done,” he concluded.

Lord of the Rings, estimated to have cost 12.5 million pounds ($25 million) to stage, was unveiled to the press late on Tuesday at London’s historic Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

But there was also scorn for the musical re-telling of the tale of Frodo Baggins and his epic journey to Mount Doom, which has been adapted into three hugely successful movies directed by Peter Jackson.

“This Middle Earth has got more corn than Kansas,” was the headline in the Daily Mail’s review.

Quentin Letts praised its special effects, including a hairy giant spider, and elaborate costumes, but said its “Portentous Moments” were likely to trigger open laughter in the stalls.

“Flawed of the Rings” was how the Sun tabloid described the production.

“Overblown, over-orchestrated and now over here,” wrote critic Bill Hagerty, who said the musical was too long at three hours and that the music was “almost tune-free.”

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