Lord of the Rings Musical Cut Short... Closes in September

Looks like The Lord of the Rings musical isn't doing well enough to justify its daily running costs (which are said to be 50% more than The Lion King).  Here's a bit from an article in the National Post:

The epic musical based on J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy will play its last performance for Toronto audiences on Sept. 3. It opened in March and was expected to run for at least a year.

Though he refused to name exact figures, Mr. Mirvish said the nightly running costs of The Lord of the Rings are 50% higher than those of The Lion King (itself no shoestring of a show). To recoup on such a high overhead, full houses were needed every night, and The Lord of the Rings simply hasn't been selling out.

Mr. Wallace cited the lukewarm to negative response of North American critics (with the exception of this newspaper's Robert Cushman, who called it "an intelligent musical" when it opened) as the chief cause for theatregoers staying away. "If the critics think they don't have power, believe me, they do," he said.

He also cited a difference in North American and European cultural sensibilities.

"Frankly, I believe that if the same critics had seen it at the National Theatre in London, they would have embraced it. It's spiritual home is the London theatre."

But the creative team will be taking certain criticisms, at least, to heart, and the musical will undergo some changes and rewrites before opening in London. It will also be cut down to three hours, a far cry from the now legendary five hours it clocked during the first week of previews.

"Music will pulse through the third act more than it does now. It will drive the story forward," Mr. Wallace said.

Mayor David Miller said it was "unfortunate" the show was ending. "It was a terrific production, and the longer it went, the better," Mr. Miller said.

"It was a great thing for Toronto, but the fact it was here in the first place, to show we can produce original theatre in this city, the fact it is going on to London, that's good news for Toronto."

Greg Sorbara, Ontario's Finance Minister, agreed. He noted that Toronto is the second-largest theatre market in North America, and said the city and province could continue to benefit from the added profile, especially if The Lord of the Rings has international success over the next two or three years.

He also said chances are "very good to excellent" that the province will be repaid the $3-million it put into the production.

Jim Bradley, Ontario Tourism Minister, estimated the show has already generated $3.9-million for the provincial treasury.

"We wish it had played longer. That said, it has been a valuable economic stimulus and boosted tourism in Ontario," he said.

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