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'Lord of the Rings' Musical to Open in London

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By Paul Majendie

A musical version of "The Lord of the Rings" is to open in London next year but the production has been reworked and cut after its world premiere in Toronto received some damning reviews.

"At a cost of 12.5 million pounds ($23 million), this is the most expensive musical ever staged in London," producer Kevin Wallace told Reuters on Thursday when announcing its London debut in June 2007.

The musical based on J.R.R. Tolkien's epic trilogy will take over at London's historic Theater Royal Drury Lane from the award-winning Mel Brooks musical "The Producers," which has taken almost 40 million pounds ($75 million) at the box office.

Wallace, taking on board the acerbic reception meted out to the musical by some North American critics, said: "There will be a series of revisions. There is stuff we have learned. We are breaking it down scene by scene."

"The writers have been doing some reworking. This will be a cut and reworked version with more music and we have edited out some of the sub-plot," said Wallace, formerly in-house producer with Andrew Lloyd Webber's London-based The Really Useful Group.

The Toronto show, which took four years to bring to the stage, opened in March with critics applauding its leaping orcs and menacing dark riders but getting lost in the tangled plots of Middle Earth.

The 55-member cast slipped into 500 costumes and engaged in fight scenes and acrobatics atop a 40-tonne, computer-controlled stage floor featuring 17 elevators, which spun and rose amid magic and illusion.

Ben Brantley of The New York Times complained, "Everyone and everything winds up lost in this" while the Toronto Globe and Mail said, "It still looks a lot like unfinished business."

But the London Times branded it "a stirring triumph of theatrical magic."

Wallace said: "I was surprised by how extreme some of the North American response was. But I was gratified that the UK critics were more responsive. I think it is coming back to its spiritual home in London."

The producer, who plans to open the show next in Germany in 2008, said, "We have taken into account what critics said. A pattern emerged. We did indeed need to heighten the emotional intensity of the third act. We can make it more impactful."

Additional reporting by Jennifer Kwan in Toronto


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