The Lord of the Rings Musical was the most prominent of several theatre adaptions of The Lord of the Rings. The show's score includes music by A. R. Rahman, Christopher Nightingale and the band Värttinä with lyrics by Matthew Warchus. Although generally described as a musical, Warchus/Rhaman/Värttinä do not characterise their production as musical theatre but rather as a theatre adaption with vital musical elements.
London-based theatre producer Kevin Wallace and his partner, Saul Zaentz—stage and film rights holder and producer of the animated film version of 1978—in association with Toronto theatre owner David Mirvish and concert promoter Michael Cohl, produced a stage musical adaptation with a book and lyrics written by Shaun McKenna and Matthew Warchus, and music by A. R. Rahman and Värttinä, collaborating with Christopher Nightingale.
The three-and-a-half-hour-long three-act production, with a cast of 65 actors, was mounted in Toronto, Canada, at the Princess of Wales Theatre, at a cost of approximately C$ 30 million. It was promoted as a spectacle of unusual scale. It starred Brent Carver as Gandalf and Michael Therriault as Gollum, and was directed by Matthew Warchus and choreographed by Peter Darling, with set and costume design by Rob Howell. The production began performances on February 4, 2006 and had its press opening on March 23, 2006. It received mixed notices from the press. and had its final performance September 3, 2006.
The show played to almost 400,000 people in Toronto. It was nominated for 15 Dora Awards, winning 7, including "Outstanding New Musical" and awards for direction, design and choreography. Richard Corliss of Time Magazine described it as "ingenious" and a "definitive megamusical".
The shortened (three-hour) and significantly re-written show began previews at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on May 9, 2007, with its official premiere June 19, 2007. The same creative team as the Toronto production was involved in the London production, with only three cast members reprising their roles from Toronto—James Loye (Frodo), Peter Howe (Sam) and Michael Therriault (Gollum). The production featured a cast of 50 actors and reportedly cost £12 million (approximately US$25 million), making it one of the most expensive musicals ever produced in the West End. The National Geographic Channel produced a 50 minute television program as part of their INSIDE series that followed the London production from the first day of rehearsals to the first performance. Since July 2007 the program has aired on international National Geographic channels in over 30 countries, and on PBS in the United States.
On May 31, 2007, it was reported that a preview performance had been suspended after a cast member (Adam Salter) caught his leg in the moving stage and was taken to hospital during the performance of the evening of May 30. Salter made a full recovery and later rejoined the production.
The London production, which starred London's original Mary Poppins Laura Michelle Kelly as Galadriel, received mixed reviews. The Times called it "a brave, stirring, epic piece of popular theatre"  and The Guardian gave the show a four star rating, calling it "a hugely impressive production". While the Toronto version was dubbed "Bored of The Rings", the London production was labelled by The Sun as "Flawed of The Rings". However, it proved popular with audiences, being nominated for 7 Whatsonstage Theatregoer's Choice Awards in 2007 and 5 Olivier Awards in 2008, including book and lyrics, lighting (Paul Pyant), sets and costumes (both Rob Howell) and sound. Abbie Osman later replaced Kelly as Galadriel on February 4, 2008. On June 19, 2008, many of the original cast members left the production, having not extended their contracts for the final month. They were all replaced by their respective understudies.
The production took its final bow on July 19, 2008, after 492 performances over a 13-month run.
The production will return as a world tour in 2015. New Zealand it the first location the musical will travel to, however, future locations are unknown.
Mr. Bilbo Baggins of the Shire holds a magnificent party. Following a surprise announcement that he is bequeathing everything he owns to his nephew Frodo, Bilbo vanishes. Frodo soon learns from the wizard Gandalf the Grey that Bilbo's magic ring holds unimaginably evil power. The Dark Lord Sauron’s agents are abroad in search of it. Frodo must leave the Shire at once and seek advice from the Elves at Rivendell. All is not lost—magic still resides in Middle-earth, and the Rangers of the North guard the wilderness beyond the Shire's borders.
The One Ring corrupts any who use it, no matter how noble their intent. Only little folk like Hobbits, who live far from the intrigues of Men in distant lands, have some resistance. The great wizard Saruman the White has already succumbed to the seductions of power and seeks the Ring for his own ends.
Frodo and his friends arrive at the Prancing Pony Inn at Bree expecting to meet Gandalf. In a moment of weakness, Frodo puts on the Ring and is attacked by Black Riders. The Hobbits flee, aided by the ranger Strider.
Arwen Evenstar sings of longing and loss in the sanctuary of Rivendell where Elrond Half-elven holds a great council. The Ring cannot be destroyed by any earthly means. Nor can it be hidden, as Sauron's will acts like a magnet drawing it to him. It must be taken in secret to the Dark Lord’s realm of Mordor and melted in the supernatural fires of Mount Doom where it was forged.
A Fellowship of nine is formed to carry out this quest: the Ringbearer Frodo Baggins; fellow Hobbits Sam Gamgee, Merry Brandybuck and Pippin Took; Gandalf, Strider, the warrior Boromir, Legolas the Elf, and Gimli the Dwarf. They head East into danger.
The mystical Galadriel offers a respite in her timeless haven. But violence splinters the Fellowship soon afterwards. Merry and Pippin unleash chaos when they awaken the ancient Ents in Fangorn Forest. In the Lands of Men to the South, the elderly Steward (Boromir's father) is roused from a dark enchantment, and Gandalf's miraculous return with an army of giant Ents turns the tide at a crucial battle. The Orcs are destroyed and Saruman cast down. Gollum, ensnared by the Ring's power, guides Frodo and Sam towards Mordor.
If the remaining Fellowship members can draw the Eye of Sauron away from Mordor, the Ringbearer might have a chance to complete his mission. Strider takes up his reforged ancestral sword and reclaims his inheritance as Aragorn, the long-lost King. Defeating the Dark Lord will win him Arwen's hand in marriage. Gollum betrays Frodo and Sam in Shelob’s lair. Galadriel casts protection spells as the army goes to war and Frodo and Sam climb Mount Doom.
The Ring's destruction ushers in a new age, the Dominion of Men. After being celebrated as heroes in the City of Kings, the Hobbits return home to a drastically changed Shire. Sam is reunited with his beloved Rosie, but not all things can be healed. Magic is leaving Middle-earth. Arwen, who is giving up her immortality to marry Aragorn, grants Frodo her place on a ship sailing west to the Blessed Realm of the Elves. There, he may find rest from his cares and wounds. Life in the Shire has come full circle, but nothing will ever be the same again.
As the show had a run length of 3.5 hours (3 hours for the London production) much of the story of the book had to be condensed, most notably the combination of both the Battle of the Hornburg and the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.
|Character||Toronto Cast||Original London Cast||Final London Cast|
|Bilbo Baggins||Cliff Saunders||Terence Frisch|
|Samwise "Sam" Gamgee||Peter Howe|
|Rose "Rosie" Cotton||Kristin Galer||Kirsty Malpass|
|Frodo Baggins||James Loye||James Byng|
|Gandalf the Grey/Gandalf the White||Brent Carver||Malcolm Storry||Andrew Jarvis|
|Peregrin "Pippin" Took||Owen Sharpe||Stuart Neal|
|Meriadoc "Merry" Brandybuck||Dylan Roberts||Richard Henders||Ben Evans|
|Elránien||Monique Lund||Alexandra Bonnet|
|Saruman the White||Richard McMillan||Brian Protheroe||Tim Morgan|
|Barliman Butterbur||Shawn Wright||Tim Parker|
|Bill Ferny||Patrick McManus||Michael Hobbs|
|Aragorn (Strider)||Evan Buliung||Jérôme Pradon||Robbie Scotcher|
|Glorfindel||did not appear||Alma Ferovic|
|Arwen Undómiel||Carly Street||Rosalie Craig|
|Lord Elrond||Victor A. Young||Andrew Jarvis||Michael Hobbs|
|Boromir||Dion Johnstone||Steven Miller|
|Gimli||Ross Williams||Sévan Stephan|
|Legolas Greenleaf||Gabriel Burrafato||Michael Rouse|
|Haldir||Fraser Walters||Wayne Fitzsimmons|
|Lady Galadriel||Rebecca Jackson Mendoza||Laura Michelle Kelly||Abbie Osmon|
|Treebeard||Shawn Wright||Michael Hobbs|
|Steward of the Lands of Men||did not appear||Tim Morgan||Tim Parker|
- Act I
- Prologue ('Lasto i lamath') – Arwen
- Springle Ring – Company
- The Road Goes On – Frodo, Sam, Pippin, Merry, Company
- Saruman – Female Voices
- The Cat and the Moon – Frodo, Sam, Pippin, Merry, Company
- Flight to the Ford – Glorfindel, Female Voices
- The Song of Hope – Arwen
- Star of Eärendil – Arwen, Company
- Lament for Moria – Gandalf, Gimli
- Act II
- The Golden Wood – Company
- Lothlórien – Legolas, Galadriel, Company
- Lothlórien (reprise) – Galadriel, Company
- The Siege of the City of Kings – Female Voices
- Now and for Always – Frodo, Sam
- Gollum/Sméagol – Gollum/Sméagol
- Act III
- The Song of Hope (Duet) – Aragorn, Arwen
- Wonder – Galadriel
- The Final Battle – Galadriel
- City of Kings – Company
- Epilogue (Farewells)
- Finale – Company
Much of the lyrics are taken directly from Tolkien's novels, poems and related work. 'The Road Goes On' is loosely based on Bilbo's walking song spoken by Bilbo and Frodo in The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring respectively. 'The Cat and the Moon' takes its lyrics from Frodo's drinking song in The Fellowship of the Ring. 'The Song of Hope' includes Elvish lyrics, which are a reworking of Galadriel's lament (The Fellowship of the Ring), though the song is sung by Arwen in the musical. 'Lament for Moria' takes lyrics from Gimli's lament inThe Fellowship of the Ring. The song 'Lothlórien' is performed by Legolas as an introduction to Galadriel. At the same point in the novel Legolas sings about the Elf-maiden Nimrodel, and although the two songs share a similar sentiment their lyrics are unrelated. The lyrics to 'Wonder', performed by Galadriel, are almost identical to the Song of Eldamar—a lament sung and played on the harp by Galadriel in The Fellowship of the Ring.  Many of the songs feature lyrics in Quenya, one of the fictional languages developed by Tolkien, despite the fact that the Elves during the Third Age communicated in Sindarin. It is likely that the writers opted for Quenya because Tolkien had developed this language the most.
The London original cast recording was released on February 4, 2008, and features 18 musical numbers from the show. The CD release was accompanied by a DVD with superior sound quality and DVD bonuses. Disc 2 features an alternative version of "The Song of Hope (Duet)" and a slideshow of production images.