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<i>Lord of the Rings</i> musical ends 5-month run

Toronto (Reuters): The curtain will fall on the blockbuster Canadian production of the Lord of the Rings musical in September, just five months after it opened to mixed reviews, the show's producers has said. The Toronto world premiere, which took four years to bring to the stage, opened March 23 to critics applauding its leaping Orcs and menacing dark riders, but complaining of getting lost in the tangled plots of Middle Earth. ''If the critics don't believe they have power, believe me they do,'' lead producer Kevin Wallace told a news conference at the Toronto Princess of Wales Theatre held to announce the closing.

The news comes just as the C$28 million ($25 million) show won some of Canada's top theater awards earlier this week. It will close on Sept. 3. Tickets had been on sale until Sept. 24 and producers had earlier said it might take up to a year to test the show before debuting in larger markets. A reworked and shorter version will reopen for previews in London on May 9, 2007, and will take over at London's historic Theatre Royal Drury Lane from the award-winning Mel Brooks musical ''The Producers''. It is hoped the show will then go to Germany in 2008.

Calling London the spiritual home of the production, British critics responded more favorably to the world premiere, while many North American reviews gave Lord of the Rings a rough ride, which, in part, hit ticket sales, said Wallace. ''We are doing respectable business here, but we're not sold out,'' he said. ''A show of this scale needs to be doing that level of business.'' The Times of London branded the musical ''A stirring triumph of theatrical magic,'' while The New York Times said the show was ''largely incomprehensible'', noting: ''Everyone and everything winds up lost in this ... adaptation of Tolkien's cult-inspiring trilogy of fantasy novels. That includes plot, character and the patience of most ordinary theatergoers.'' Naysayers saw the spectacular, high-tech production as being a huge risk, unable to successfully adapt J.R.R. Tolkien's masterpiece to the stage in the same way that Peter Jackson brought the trilogy to movie theaters. Despite this, the closure does not tarnish Toronto's reputation as in the theater world, said producer David Mirvish of Mirvish Productions.

''I think that this is going to be a moment in theater history no matter what happens to the show in the future'' he said. ''We took the risk and we are willing to take risks, and we think that we are capable and that we can play on an international forum.'' The story follows the story of Hobbit Frodo Baggins in his quest to save Middle Earth by destroying the ring of power. The musical's three acts take the audience through the dream-like and misty Mines of Moria, Forest of Fangorn and to the final battle at Mount Doom.

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. Some members of the Toronto cast will join the London production with details to be announced in September, said Wallace.

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