Chicago Shakespeare Theater Reveals Cast of THE LORD OF THE RINGS - A MUSICAL TALE

Performances run July 19–September 1, 2024 in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare.

By: Jun. 05, 2024
Chicago Shakespeare Theater Reveals Cast of THE LORD OF THE RINGS - A MUSICAL TALE
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Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST)  has announced the cast and creative team of the highly anticipated The Lord of the Rings – A Musical Tale. Based on the books by J.R.R. Tolkien, this production comes to the stage in a US premiere production directed by Paul Hart, July 19–September 1, 2024 in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare.

This adventure through the epic realm of Middle-earth has been beloved by generations of readers. With book and lyrics by Shaun McKenna and Matthew Warchus and original music by Academy Award winner A.R. Rahman (Bombay Dreams, Slumdog Millionaire), Finnish folk band Värttinä, and Tony Award winner Christopher Nightingale (Matilda the Musical), this theatrical event celebrates the greatest accomplishment in Middle-earth, making for an unforgettable experience for longtime fans and newcomers alike.

The Lord of the Rings – A Musical Tale features a 24-member ensemble cast that includes Justin Albinder, Tom Amandes, Tony Bozzuto, Eileen Doan, Joey Faggion, Rick Hall, Suzanne Hannau, Mia Hilt, Will James, Jr., Michael Kurowski, Ben Mathew, Ian Maryfield, Spencer Davis Milford, Jarais Musgrove, Hannah Novak, Jeff Parker, Adam Qutaishat, Bernadette Santos Schwegel, Laura Savage, Carter Rose Sherman, Alina Jenine Taber, Arik Vega, Matthew C. Yee, and Lauren Zakrin.

As the Hobbits celebrate Bilbo Baggins’ eleventy-first birthday in the Shire, he gifts his nephew Frodo his most precious belonging—a gold ring. This fateful moment launches Frodo on a legendary and perilous quest across Middle-earth to the darkest realms of Mordor, to vanquish evil with his loyal Fellowship. The folk-inspired score is performed live by the company onstage, weaving together original music with storytelling. The US Premiere run this summer coincides with the 70th anniversary of the publication of The Fellowship of the Ring, the first book in The Lord of the Rings trilogy which debuted July 29, 1954.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater is delighted to create the US premiere of Paul Hart’s magical and inspiring vision of The Lord of The Rings,” said Artistic Director Edward Hall. “The Chicago-based ensemble that Paul and our team have put together promises to take us on an extraordinary adventure through Middle-earth. Launching our summer program in The Yard with this thrilling production promises an unforgettable night in the theater.”

“Sharing the Watermill’s wonderful expression of The Lord of the Rings on stage with audiences from across the globe, beginning this summer in Chicago, with the US premiere of Paul Hart’s and Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s collaborative re-imagining, is a dream come true for all of us at MEE and our colleagues at Kevin Wallace Productions,” noted Fredrica Drotos, of Middle-earth Enterprises.

Director Paul Hart originated this new staging at the Watermill Theatre in West Berkshire, Newbury, UK in Summer 2023. He shared, “I can’t wait for this next step in the epic journey of The Lord of the Rings as we craft this new staging for the US premiere production with CST for Chicago audiences. We loved creating this version which was retold from the perspective of the Hobbits at The Watermill and will now be expanded far beyond those horizons. It will be thrilling to share with new audiences internationally as part of this next stage.”

As Frodo Baggins, the young and kind-hearted Hobbit tasked with returning the all-powerful One Ring to Mordor, Spencer Davis Milford makes his Chicago Shakespeare debut. Milford was seen on Broadway in The Winslow Boy and in the first national tours of Billy Elliot and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. He has performed at The Muny many times, including in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Camelot, Disney’s Newsies, and 42nd Street. Recent Chicago credits include Hello, Dolly! at Marriott Theatre, Billy Elliot at Paramount Theatre, and the current production of Guys and Dolls at Drury Lane Theatre.

Tom Amandes plays Gandalf, the wise and powerful mentor to Frodo and his Fellowship on their quest. With an extensive film and television career, Amandes is best known for his recurring roles as Dr. Harold Abbott on WB's Everwood, Dr. Pelikan on NBC's Parenthood, Governor Samuel Reston on ABC's Scandal, and Noah Kuttler on CW’s Arrow. He notably played President Abraham Lincoln in the film Saving Lincoln, as well as appearances in Lucky, Live from Baghdad, Brokedown Palace, and The Long Kiss Goodnight. His theater credits include productions at IAMA Theatre Company in Los Angeles, Cynical Weathers and At Home at the Zoo at Victory Gardens, and Othello and Candida at Court Theatre. Lauren Zakrin plays Galadriel, an Elven queen who offers aid to the Fellowship. Zakrin’s Broadway credits include Once Upon a One More Time, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, and Rock of Ages,and she has been seen in national tours of Wicked, Grease, and Legally Blonde.

In the role of Frodo’s uncle Bilbo Baggins is Rick Hall. Hall is a founding member of Chicago’s Improv Institute and an alumnus of The Second City who returns to Chicago Shakespeare after appearing in The People vs. Friar Laurence, The Man Who Killed Romeo and Juliet and A Flea In Her Ear. Tony Bozzuto plays Gollum, a cunning adversary to the Fellowship in their quest to destroy the One Ring. Bozzuto’s Chicago credits include The Internationalist at Steppenwolf Theatre, Cat’s Cradle, Whose Body, and The Island of Dr. Moreau at Lifeline Theatre, and On An Average Day with BackStage Theatre, for which he received a Jeff Award nomination.

Playing the Hobbits who join Frodo’s quest are Michael Kurowski (Samwise Gamgee), who returns to Chicago Shakespeare after Peter Pan – A Musical Adventure, and whose additional credits include national tours of Once and The Play That Goes Wrong, and work at Drury Lane Theatre, Marriott Theatre, and Paramount Theatre; Ben Mathew (Pippin), who was recently seen in Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas at Studebaker Theatre and whose additional credits include Once at Writers Theatre and Campaigns Inc. at TimeLine Theatre; and Eileen Doan(Merry) whose credits include Lucy and Charlie’s Honeymoon at Lookingglass Theatre Company, Describe the Night at Steppenwolf Theatre, and Cambodian Rock Band at Victory Gardens Theater.

Portraying the other members of Fellowship of the Ring are Justin Albinder(Legolas) who was recently seen in the second national tour of Jersey Boys and whose Chicago credits include Beautiful: The Carole King Musical at Marriott Theatre; Will James, Jr. (Strider/Aragorn), who appeared in the national tour of Disney’s The Lion King; Ian Maryfield (Gimli), who recently appeared as Tybalt in Short Shakespeare! Romeo and Juliet and whose additional credits include work at Court Theatre, Red Theater, Windy City Playhouse, and more; and Matthew C. Yee(Boromir), who wrote and starred in Lucy and Charlie’s Honeymoon at Lookingglass Theatre last year, and other recent credits include Antigone at Court Theatre and Almost Famous on Broadway.

Jeff Parker plays two characters: Saruman, a Wizard who is tempted by evil and works against the Fellowship, and the Half-elven, Elrond. Parker’s many CST credits include Measure for Measure, As You Like It, The King’s Speech, and King Charles III, and other recent credits include Fiddler on the Roof and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella at Drury Lane Theatre and Proximity at Lyric Opera. Alina Jenine Taber plays Elven princess Arwen. Taber is known for her recurring role as Lexi Olinsky on Chicago PD and has performed extensively around Chicago as a vocalist and songwriter. Her recent theater credits include Beautiful: The Carole King Musical at Marriott Theatre, Grease at Drury Lane Theatre, and Once at Writers Theatre. Samwise’s wife Rosie is played by Suzanne Hannau, whose recent credits include The Matchbox Magic Flute at Goodman Theatre and work with the Chicago Wind Symphony, Highland Park Strings, and Chicago Folks Operetta.

The ensemble includes Joey Faggion, Mia Hilt, Jarais Musgrove, Hannah Novak, Bernadette Santos Schwegel, Laura Savage, Carter Rose Sherman, Adam Qutaishat, and Arik Vega.

Director Paul Hart is the Artistic Director and Joint CEO of Watermill Theatre in the UK, which just received The Stage’s 2024 Award for Theatre of the Year. His previous production of The Lord of the Rings – A Musical Tale at Watermill last summer was awarded the WhatsOnStage Award for Best Regional Production and the BroadwayWorld UK Award for Best Direction of a Musical. His other Watermill credits include Notes From A Small Island (BroadwayWorld UK Award for Best Direction of a New Production), Spike, Kiss Me, Kate, Sweet Charity, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Borrowers, Romeo and Juliet, among many others. Other credits include multiple UK tours and work with Donmar Warehouse, Propeller Shakespeare Company, National Youth Theatre, and serving as the associate director for the Broadway production of Red.

The creative team also includes Production Designer Simon Kenny, Choreographer and Movement Director Anjali Mehra, Music Supervisor Mark Aspinall, Music Director and Keyboard Programmer Michael McBride, Lighting Designer Rory Beaton, Original Sound Designer Adam Fisher, Projection Designer George Reeve, Puppet Designer Charlie Tymms, Chicago Fight Director and Intimacy Director Rachel Flesher, Associate Director Christa Harris, Chicago Sound Designer Nicholas Pope, Associate Projection Designer Iain Syme, Original Fight Director Dani McCallum, Original Puppetry Designer Ashleigh Cheadle, Casting Director Bob Mason, Production Stage Manager David Castellanos, Assistant Stage Managers Michael George and Shannon Golden-Starr, and Production Assistant Tuesday Thacker.

Additional credits: Kevin Wallace & William Bennett for Kevin Wallace Productions, Middle‑earth Enterprises, GWB Entertainment, Tim McFarlane, People Entertainment Group, The Watermill Theatre

The press opening for The Lord of the Rings – A Musical Tale is scheduled for Friday, July 26 at 7:00 p.m.




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