Before I launch into this, please note that it's 1am, and I apologise for any typos or poorly phrased things. When I first heard that they were doing The Lord of the Rings as a musical, my first reaction was one of wry amusement, surely it wouldn't transfer?
When I heard about the actual performances in Toronto, these impressions seemed to be confirmed, and so when it came to London I wasn't too keen.
However, I'd read that they learned from Toronto, and tightened things up a bit - and so on a whim I took myself into London to see the show.
It's good. It's very good.
It's not 'Lord of the Rings' complete, but the major highlights are there. For example, the Rider of Rohan don't appear at all, nor do the elephaunts or the army of the dead, but the Ents do, as does Shelob, Saruman, the Black Riders, the Elves, Moria and others.
The set spreads into the theatre, with branches covering the boxes, and the stage itself is absolutely chock full of hydraulics - sections rise and fall, and the whole thing spins.
There are several points which were simply incredibly well done. Firstly there was the ring disappearances. Bilbo's eleventy-first birthday is a great application of Physics - it's a variant on Pepper's ghost. It'll leave some people in amazement.
The disappearance in the prancing pony was astounding, though possibly mainly due to my inattention. I was expecting a cheat with the stage lights (but that wasn't it) - one minute Frodo was there, and the next he wasn't. Now, I may have blinked and missed it - in fact I know I did, as I don't know how that was done. Frodo's disappearance it was very swift (he probably just merged with some people moving cross stage) - but it was very smooth.
The first real appearance of Gollum, at the start of act 2 was the perfect entrance. A really good piece of stage engineering. The black riders were very effective too... Shelob and the Balrog also made an appearance. Some smaller audience members will have nightmares about Shelob.
I liked the rendering of the orcs, where can I have a go on some of those bouncy stilts?
Large sections of the book are removed, I think this won't disadvantage anyone unfamiliar with the material (indeed, it is probably more problematic for those familiar, as they're more likely to be thinking 'that bit should be next... where was it?') It'll annoy people who are 'precious' about the book, but for everyone else, it's good. The stage show restores the 'in one bound he was free' escape from Saruman by Gandalf (I know it gets filled in later in the book - but in the film the filling in is pretty quick, and I think that's better for live action).
Tom Bombadil doesn't appear (yay!) though he does get a mention.
The music is actually well done, this could have easily been handled badly. There's a nice duet with Sam and Frodo which was getting a bit too slushy for me - and then Gollum subverts it. Nice.
Opening night isn't for a few weeks yet, these are the previews, so there's still a few things to iron out, for example, when Gandalf knocks on the door of Bag End, he really does need to ensure he doesn't knock the door right open. Also the Bag End set is a bit wobbly. There were a few other little foibles, some on stage, some technical (e.g. during a quiet bit, there was a yellow flash above the stage which was out of place). There was a bit of a mishmash of accents, which could be offputting, and the elves (especially Arwen and Galadrial) kept doing weird jerky things with their hands, not continuously, but from time to time.
These were minor points, in an otherwise excellent production - and it is still in previews, with one of the main actors currently with an injured leg after an accident last week.
Generally, it was very good, and I could really see where the millions were spent!
Tip: There is one full interval, the second interval is a pause, you have only a couple of minutes. Things start on stage 15 minutes before curtain.
Finally. I'd like to remind you of the opening sentence....