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Lord of the Rings reviews

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Lord of the Rings reviews #1
Posted: 6/19/07 at 8:31pm
well this is the first one out

and (actually shocked) its positive




Theatre
The Lord of the Rings


**** Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London

Michael Billington
Wednesday June 20, 2007
The Guardian

I suppose there are two ways to approach this mega-musical: either as a paid-up Tolkien aficionado or as a wide-eyed newcomer. Having dipped only briefly into the original trilogy and the Peter Jackson movies, I entered Drury Lane as innocent as any hairy-toed hobbit. I emerged three and a quarter hours later sceptical as to the main matter but hugely impressed by the manner of Matthew Warchus's production.

Obviously Shaun McKenna and Warchus, as co-authors, faced a huge task in boiling down a 1,000-page fantasy into a theatrical narrative. But, although bits of the backstory remain obscure, the main thrust is clear. Frodo Baggins, a junior hobbit, and his chums are deputed by the wizard Gandalf to undertake an epic journey to Mount Doom to dispose of the evil Ring. In the course of their quest they acquire the company of elves, dwarves and rangers. They encounter sinister black riders and orcs, pass through Rivendell and the Golden Wood and ultimately do battle with the forces of the Dark Lord, Sauron. Finally, however, they get rid of the damned Ring.

Article continues
CS Lewis, who knew about these things, claimed Tolkien created a complete world with "insolent prodigality". Strip the story down to its essentials, however, and it seems strangely derivative. The idea of an all-powerful Ring, not to mention the shattered sword that is part of the story, is pure Wagner. The paradisal Rivendell is straight out of Morte d'Arthur and even the villainous wizard, Saruman, has echoes of Malory's Modred. Behind the tale also lurks a pre-Raphaelite nostalgia for a lost, pastoral England: when the hobbits return to the Shire to find "great looming factories" and smoke-belching chimneys, they sound just like William Morris.

But, although I find it difficult to buy into the Tolkien myth, I happily pay tribute to the skills of Warchus and his production team. For all the technology on display in a £12.5m musical, they avoid presenting us with a heartless industrialised spectacle. Rob Howell's imaginative design transforms the whole theatre into a bosky undergrowth. The barrier between stage and audience is constantly broken down. As we enter, jolly hobbits are chasing fireflies through the stalls. And, in a chilling entr'acte, sinister orcs eerily move amongst us.

The special effects, overseen by Gregory Meeh, are also special. The specific properties of theatre are used to create an alternative world. The black riders, who pursue Frodo and his gang, gallop apace on stilts like satanic furies. Paul Kieve, as head illusionist, magically makes Bilbo Baggins disappear. Best of all is the giant spider, Shelob, which creeps up on Frodo with legs the size of towering arches: only gradually do you notice the operatives underneath. Even if Howell has divided the revolving stage into a network of rising and falling platforms, you are always conscious of the human agency that makes things possible.

The music also never, or hardly ever, impedes the narrative flow. AR Rahman, the Finnish group Varttina and Christopher Nightingale have joined forces to produce a score that has two dominant elements: hearty, rustic numbers for the hobbits and romantic ballads to express the love of the elvish Arwen for the chief ranger and the yearnings of the mystical Galadriel, Lady of Lothlorien. Even if I jibbed at the blandness of some lyrics the music fulfils its basic function of reinforcing atmosphere. Laura Michelle Kelly's glittering Galadriel also struck me as more engaging company than her recent bossyboots Mary Poppins.

On the whole, however, it is not a show for connoisseurs of acting. As in the movie, the most striking performances come from actors who lend a Shakespearean resonance to essentially emblematic figures: most especially Malcolm Storry as Gandalf, Brian Protheroe as Saruman and Andrew Jarvis as an Elrond whose kingly voice resonates like thunder. Even Michael Therriault's Gollum is like an unearthly mix of Ariel and Caliban and James Loye's Frodo has odd echoes of his Regent's Park Cloten.

Did the show convert me to Tolkien's world? Absolutely not. You won't find me sporting T-shirts, like some hippy-dippy American students, proclaiming "Gandalf for President". And I shall be quite happy to avoid, in future, the manufactured myth of Middle Earth. But 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.

http://arts.guardian.co.uk/theatre/drama/reviews/story/0,,2106788,00.html
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re: Lord of the Rings reviews #2
Posted: 6/19/07 at 8:33pm
The Independent is Mixed to Negative but with praise for its set Design


First Night: The Lord Of The Rings, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London
Did Middle Earth move for you? Sadly not in this inadequate Tolkien adaptation
By Paul Taylor
Published: 20 June 2007

Unless you've spent the past few months stuck in the Crack of Doom or down the mines of Moria, you'll be aware that this musical adaptation of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings has cost £12.5m (making it one of the most expensive stage works on record) and that it failed to recoup its budget in Toronto where the world premiere last year had a mixed critical response.

Heavily revamped, and with 45 minutes lopped off its original three-hour running time, it opened last night at London's Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Is it now the one show to rule them all?

I wonder what the Elvish word is for "no". The director, Matthew Warchus, maintains that he and the creative team "have not attempted to pull the novel towards the standard conventions of musical theatre, but rather to expand those conventions so that they will accommodate Tolkien's material". That is commendable. The average musical is a boy-meets-girl affair, and sexual desire is barely on the agenda in the Tolkien world, where no one is ever going to ask "Did Middle Earth move for you, darling?"

But the promised "hybrid of text, physical theatre, music and spectacle never previously seen on this scale" turns out to be a show with a bit of an identity crisis, strong on dynamic spectacle, squeezed as drama, and in two minds about how it wants to use music dramatically.

The score, by the Bollywood composer A R Rahman, the Finnish group Varttina and the show's musical supervisor, Christopher Nightingale, is a pleasingly plangent mix of the folky and the mystical, Enya meets Riverdance. Especially when Laura Michelle Kelly's Galadriel lets rip with eerie crystalline clarity and Celtic-tinged melodic curlicues, it can create a magical, otherworldly atmosphere that combines ethnic strangeness with elegiac lament for the passing of an era.

But I find it disappointing that the music is employed as an accompaniment to the drama (characters tend to sing when it would be natural to do so, to bestow ceremonial blessings, keep their spirits up, or when joining forces for a jamboree or a battle) rather than as a way of digging deeper into it.

And if the show is prepared to break its own logic by allowing Aragorn and Arwen a drippy, pop-opera love song, why can't it let music explore and lend urgency to the moral disputes and dilemmas that surface as it follows the hobbit Frodo (an engaging, fresh-faced James Loye) on his mission to destroy the evil ring?

With epic, it's vital to get a sense of time passed, distance covered and suffering endured. Here, despite the drastic cuts to material, it took three lengthy films to encompass, the story-telling is rushed. Some of the ordeals seem to be over almost before they've begun, so it's hard for the adventures to register the requisite weight. The evening's stand-out performer is Michael Thierriault who jerks and jack-knifes like an addict assailed by painful, conflicting impulses as the slimy, perverted Gollum. Even a fine classical actor, Malcolm Storry, who plays Gandalf, is left struggling with cardboard characterisation.

Rob Howell's design, thrillingly lit by Paul Pyant, sends a creepy canopy of twisted tree roots out into the auditorium. There are levitating elves, vertiginously stilted Ents, and rabid, leather-clad Orcs on curved pogo-sticks and sinister crutches who, deterring any plan to leave during the short second interval, run amok amongst the punters and hiss at them through scary teeth.

The gigantic, spitting Shelob will be a major recruiting drive for arachnophobia. But is impressive spectacle sufficient compensation for other inadequacies? When Gandalf is attacked by the demon, Balrog, an almighty wind gusts through the theatre. Viewed as a piece of music drama, this show is unlikely to blow you away.
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re: Lord of the Rings reviews #2
Posted: 6/19/07 at 8:44pm
VERY VERY VERY NEGATIVE -Ouch

Lord of the Rings on stage - Middle Earth with more corn than Kansas
By Quentin Letts - Daily Mail- on 20th June 2007


Quite the funniest West End show of the year.

Under-tens will take it at face value as an epic tale of valour versus evil. A suited, middle-aged American next to me also enjoyed it, repeatedly saying "yeah!" and clapping until his hands must have hurt.

Others may enjoy the technical wizardry and elaborate costumes which include a hairy giant spider (girls, you have been warned).

Menacing: Gollum (Michael Therriault) threatens slumbering Sam
The set changes are multifarious, the dancing exuberant, the band's brass section parps its heart out.

Dry ice is used so liberally that anyone with a weak chest may want to take along an inhaler.

Patrons in the stalls were left coughing like soldiers at the Somme after a mustard gas attack.

But despite such ostentatious merits, despite having oceans of money sloshed on it, despite gorgeous Lady of Lothlorien (Laura Michelle Kelly) who like some colleagues performs odd tai-chi hand movements while singing, the Rings is less heart than a hoot.

British adults will find it difficult to suppress open laughter at this show's Portentous Moments.

Corny is hardly the word. There's more corn here than in Kansas.

JRR Tolkien, creator of Middle Earth and its anxieties, receives only a tiny credit in the programme.

The typeface is more like a legal warning. But Tolkien is well out of it.

The product here is more reminiscent of TV's Xena Warrior Princess. Far bigger credits go to the "special effects designer", the "set and costume designer" and the bloke who taught the cast their acrobatics. It's that type of a night.

There are countless set-piece spectaculars when characters boing down from the ceiling.

I lost count of the mass-choreographed fights, some with fantastic giant horses, others with nasty Orcs (weird soldiers with crutches) who bounce around on rubberised foot stilts doing backward somersaults. Disabled baddies? Orcs a mercy!

The story, for those who have never been able to face Tolkien's fat book or the recent film, concerns some Hobbits who have to prevent a magic ring from falling to the disembodied Dark Lord Sauron.

Sweet little things, Hobbits. They speak in West Country accents and have an entirely understandable weakness for rhubarb custard.

Led by James Loye (who plays Frodo Baggins), the Hobbits are agreeably stumpy, stout and companionable. Along with the slithery exile Gollum (done with much arching of the spine by Michael Therriault) they are the best thing in the show.

They are even at it beforehand, catching imaginary fireflies in butterfly nets while the audience settles.

Once things get going, seasickness. This is caused by a wildly overdone revolve (a mechanical device which rotates parts of the stage and which tried to eat one of the actors during an early preview).

Few scenes pass without the revolve being given an extended workout. The first couple of times this was interesting. By the tenth time I'd had quite enough.

Without that revolve, and without Rob Howell's designs, what would be left?

Not much.

Acting comes very much second to gizmos.

There is so much epic tale to cover that we learn little about the characters of the various elves and rangers and tree ents and forces of

Mordor.

Gandalf (Malcolm Storry) and his fellow wizard Saruman (Brian Protheroe) look like druids from an Asterix book and ham it up appallingly.

One of the goodies, Boromir (Steven Miller) has a bad Scots accent and is done up to resemble Billy Connolly's scrofulous wee brother. Boromir?

Isn't that a football ground in Ayrshire?

The music is unmemorable and cliched. You can tell when something uplifting is about to happen because the chords swell in a Disneyish manner.

There is a surfeit of characters with silly hats and cod accents. Cod everywhere in fact. Cod folk tunes. Cod penny whistling. Cod olde worlde language (it's never "go on" but "go forth!") and cod aphorisms ("all roads lead to sacrifice!").

Quite early someone says "may the hair on your toes never fall out" and from that moment I'm afraid I was a perpetual prey of the giggles. Cod. Cod. Cod.

After this Rings, it is no wonder the North Sea is empty.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/showbiz/reviews.html?in_article_id=463215&in_page_id=1924
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re: Lord of the Rings reviews #3
Posted: 6/19/07 at 8:56pm
Positive from the Times

Sam Marlowe at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, WC2

It’s finally here – the year’s most anticipated theatrical opening, costing £12.5 million and heralded by high hopes on one hand and prophecies of doom on the other. When I saw Matthew Warchus’s production in Toronto last year, I was dazzled and delighted by its ingenuity and visual invention. I was also frustrated by its slower, muddier passages, unimpressed by some key performances and deeply disappointed by its bungled climax.

Happily, almost everything that was wrong has been put right. Some will prefer the slick grandiosity of Peter Jackson’s films; others will sneer at the very idea of singing hobbits. It’s their loss. Warchus and his team have a created 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.

Warchus’s and Shaun McKenna’s book has been streamlined, but at more than three hours the show is still long – yet it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Rob Howell’s stunning tree-roots design stretches out into the auditorium, and performers, too, spill from the stage, creating a fantastical environment that draws you in and grips you from beginning to end. Hobbits chase fireflies along the aisles; screeching, leather-clad orcs not only leap and somersault, on springed shoes, across the stage’s multiple revolving levels, but, startlingly, loom over unwary spectators. Frodo puts on the ring and vanishes before your eyes. Huge black riders and a hideously hairy giant spider, conjured through adroit puppetry and brilliantly lit by Paul Pyant, become creatures of genuine terror.
Related Links

* Will the rings win over the paying public?

But there’s more here than spectacle. The music, by the Indian composer A.R. Rahman and the Finnish folk group Värttinä with Christopher Nightingale, airy and earthy by turns, carries and intensifies the story’s swell of feeling. Themes of friendship, of the destruction of innocence and a world divided by race and belief emerge powerfully. The bond between James Loye’s courageous Frodo and Peter Howe’s loyal Sam is warmly affecting. Malcolm Storry’s compelling Gandalf blends otherworldly wisdom with patriarchal concern, and Laura Michelle Kelly as Galadriel, a sweet-voiced golden vision who descends in a skein of silk, is both ethereally lovely and magisterial. When Rosalie Craig as Arwen bids farewell to Jérôme Pradon’s sexily charismatic Aragorn, you glimpse the timeless agony of women down the ages sending their men off to war.

Most memorable of all is Michael Therriault’s riveting Gollum, muttering, growling, slithering, crawling and darting, part insect, part reptile. Listening to Frodo and Sam comforting each other with an old fireside song, he is torn between longing, hateful resentment and flickering affection; Therriault’s evocation of a mind and body tormented and divided is extraordinary.

Peter Darling’s choreography thrills, from a rousing tavern song to welters of warring orcs to an aerial elfin ballet; and though Warchus keeps the stage constantly bustling there is not a note sung, not a movement or an effect that doesn’t serve the story.

The battle scenes still struggle to create a sufficient sense of scale; and the inevitable telescoping of Tolkien’s dense material can be disorientating. But snobbery and cynicism be damned: this show is a wonder. Go with an open mind, an open heart, and wide-open eyes, and prepare for enchantment.
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re: Lord of the Rings reviews #4
Posted: 6/19/07 at 9:16pm
Financial Times-Negative

Hobbits, elves and their power ballads

By Ian Shuttleworth

Published: June 19 2007 18:31 | Last updated: June 19 2007 18:31

Every few years someone makes a musical of an epic tale that has gripped millions, and concentrates on the spectacle (and occasionally the music) at the expense of the actual tale that has done the gripping. Sometimes it works – Les Misérables, arguably – sometimes not – Notre Dame de Paris, indisputably. Matthew Warchus and Shaun McKenna’s filleting of J.R.R. Tolkien’s huge trilogy preserves the spine of the original story: Frodo and Sam living in rural contentment, ring of power, Rivendell and elves, Fellowship, Moria, Lothlórien and more elves, Gollum, Mount Doom, ring destroyed, victory. But whole chunks of plot are waved airily aside. How did Gandalf the wizard escape his imprisonment by his corrupt brother Saruman? “I escaped.” How is the hobbits’ homeland rid of him at the end of the story? “Saruman has moved on now.” After the great climax, how do Frodo and Sam escape the volcanic Cracks of Doom? No idea: possibly the One Ring is also a mystical fire extinguisher.

Increasingly, the show loses any sense of location, especially when men and hobbits begin having visions of big power ballads sung in an even more ill-defined dreamland by elves. (These elves are also addicted to aerial work, with flying harnesses, rope spinning: in addition to Tolkien’s High Elves and Wood Elves, now meet the Bungee Elves.) The great city of the realms of men – Minas Tirith to those who know the story – is represented by a few model buildings carried aloft on poles. The hobbits’ early journey through the woods around the Shire is dealt with by another team of pole-wielders in shrouds, who look as if they are punting the forest along.

Does it work as a musical? Tolkien’s own lyrics often plonked terribly, but they are known. Warchus and McKenna’s task has been to paraphrase: to retain familiar tones and phrases without simply reproducing the originals. Inevitably, the craftsmanship of the copies is inferior. As for Finnish folk group Värttinä’s score, even with two makeovers, by A.R. Rahman and now Christopher Nightingale, it cannot muster a single memorable tune.

What about as a spectacle? About half of the Theatre Royal auditorium has been overgrown with something or other (obscured-view seats: £50), which with different lighting effects becomes forest or cavern. Lights and video back-projection do most of the work, aided by an incessantly rising and falling sectional stage.

Director Warchus went to the trouble of circulating a press release protesting that the production in fact cost only about half of the rumoured figure of £25m; perhaps it should have used the other half. The wall, singular, of Frodo’s underground home shakes even more than the Alps beneath Maria’s feet in The Sound Of Music at the Palladium. The towering horses of the Black Riders and the colossal spider Shelob are impressive, but when the best things in the show are the puppets, all is not well.

Of the actors, Malcolm Storry is a dignified Gandalf, James Loye and Peter Howe a serviceable Frodo and Sam, and Michael Therriault an impressively sinuous Gollum, albeit with a tendency to strike brief Flashdance poses. Accomplished actors both of drama (Andrew Jarvis as elf- lord Elrond) and music theatre (Sévan Stephan as Gimli the dwarf) are sadly underused; Brian Protheroe’s Saruman has a bizarre accent, though it is not, alas, the silliest of the evening. Even after the unenthusiastically received Toronto outing last year, which led to extensive revision and the shaving of some 45 minutes off the running time (now barely three hours), expectations were high. Those expectations have not been met.
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re: Lord of the Rings reviews #5
Posted: 6/19/07 at 9:28pm
The Telegraph -Negative

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/06/20/nhobbit120.xml

"Hobbits Die A Slow Death In Battle Of West End"

Not looking good
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re: Lord of the Rings reviews #6
Posted: 6/19/07 at 9:51pm
oh f**k off. its good. and the party was even better. love it or hate it you have to appreciate the artistic and creative talent that has gone into making this a visually stunning production. i dont believe that it can fully be done, but the company do a good job. critics are negative and want to hate it. personally i think it does the best it can do. and it tries. who else tries to create original theatre? im fed up with same old broadway/west end tat, that does nothing more than badly recreate old theatrical styles and stories. i think lotr, although not without its flaws, does a great job in getting the story across in a visual and tactile way that is seldom seen in theatre. please come, it does deserve it. x
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re: Lord of the Rings reviews #7
Posted: 6/19/07 at 10:35pm
widgetsparky

Ok we all know you work at the theatre but calm down love lol

The critics have praised the staging its just the rest of the show they think needs some work.And its had some good reviews to.
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re: Lord of the Rings reviews #8
Posted: 6/19/07 at 10:41pm
"critics are negative and want to hate it"

Widgetsparky, I don't know how you can say that when the Times and the Guardian just gave it (by anyone's standards) very positive reviews.
Why, hello Margaret! Yes darling, half past five. Well, everyone, simply le tout Park Avenue and la creme de Hyannis! Well, the press table's going to be awfully crowded... but if you don't mind sharing a folding chair with Harper's Bazaar... Sing? Me? Heavens no, it's Edie's day, not mine... Although people can be so insistent, and I hate to disappoint. Twist my arm, blackmail me, threaten my very life, and who knows? You might get a verse of something...
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re: Lord of the Rings reviews #9
Posted: 6/20/07 at 4:42am
I wouldn't take the Daily Mail's review seriously; he's blatantly just seeing how much snark he can fit into a single article, as opposed to trying to write an actual proper review.

Others may enjoy the technical wizardry and elaborate costumes which include a hairy giant spider (girls, you have been warned).

Pur-lease. I like spiders, it's the chap at work who's terrified of 'em. Sexist remarks will not endear you to your readers.

Dry ice is used so liberally that anyone with a weak chest may want to take along an inhaler.

Except dry ice doesn't actually make people cough. Granted, people will cough, because they think "oh, some sort of smoke, I should cough!", but it's their brains making them do that, not the dry ice.

And let's not comment on his retarded "disabled orcs" thing. I can't be arsed. ^_^

Some positive reviews! Does this mean it's improved since Toronto, or does it mean it fits better in the UK than North America?

And widgetsparky: songanddanceman is just posting reviews for us to read. I'm glad he has, it's something from the Broadway board that I fancied seeing on the West End board but never had the attention span to instigate myself. Don't be so offensive; there's actually no reason for it!
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re: Lord of the Rings reviews #10
Posted: 6/20/07 at 5:45am
There seems to be disproportionate praise for the physical story-telling. Frankly it is nothing compared to a company like Derevo, or any number of companies that you would see in Edinburgh or such festivals. Like last year's 'Royal Hunt', the physicality looks a little like amateur dabbling in a form many mainstream directors don't really understand.
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re: Lord of the Rings reviews #11
Posted: 6/20/07 at 7:22am
i do apologize, i was tres drunk last night. yeh its a love hate thing. i just think it deserves to do well and 80% of people leaving last night thought so. so weyhey. x
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re: Lord of the Rings reviews #12
Posted: 6/20/07 at 10:40am
i thought you might be drunk widgetsparky lol i hope you had a good time at the opening night party(aren't they the best , love em lol)

Here is another review , dont shout at me but

Its Negative from the sun(and yes its the sun but i do quite like there theatre critic)

http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2-2007280413,00.html
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re: Lord of the Rings reviews #13
Posted: 6/20/07 at 11:09am
Rubbbish! saw it Toronto last year! Can we have Drury Lane back now please!!!
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re: Lord of the Rings reviews #14
Posted: 6/20/07 at 5:36pm
ha ha ha yeh party was fabulous. very very camp but wonderful. good food and drink. in terms of broadsheets, the times and guadian were very good, telagraph and standard bad. london lite, london paper, and metro (i think) were good. sun/mirror (drivvel!) etc bad. so mixed. I LIKE IT what more plaise does it need!!! x