Friday, March 24, 2006

Gored by the Rings.

I'm still recovering my strength after sitting through the Lord of the Rings musical two nights in a row. That's over 7 hours of hobbit theatre.

My review is here in the Boston Globe, gratis, though you might have to go through a free registration to view it. My Post colleague Robert Cushman's much-longer review is here (as well as condensed in The Guardian).

While not raves, our reviews are generally positive; overall the reviews are quite mixed, with some real killer ones in the New York Times, The Toronto Star, and the Globe and Mail, and the odd exuberant one like in the Times of London.

In the Globe and Mail and Star reviews, you feel almost a sense of betrayal. Something akin to: "This was the big show that was supposed to put Toronto theatre back on the map and you guys screwed it up. WTF!" As Richard Ouzounian writes, "[W]hen the 3 1/2-hour, $28 million behemoth finally comes to an end, you may find yourself fighting back tears, but they'll be ones of disappointment."

There's no doubt that the show has many problems. They all stem from one large one, though, it seems to me: Too much ambition. Too much of a desire to be innovative both technically and artistically. Too much respect, even reverence, for the source material. I had nowhere near as much fun as I did watching, say, The Producers, but I found elements of this show much more interesting, challenging, and beautiful. And this is coming from someone who is by no means a fan of the books and movies.

The idea of putting the entire 1,000 page Lord of the Rings trilogy onstage in one musical evening is an insane one. And the fact that it worked at all, when it was initially seen as pure folly or the punchline to a joke, is a triumph of sorts.

The most-expensive-musical-ever hype overshadows that, though... If you set something up as the "biggest and most ambitious theatrical production ever staged, anywhere," as the producers did, then you're tempting critics to view anything less than the best theatrical production ever as the biggest flop of all time. Charles McNulty in the L.A. Times is the first of the gate with a "Waterworld" reference...

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