When I tell my friends that there’s a LotR musical, nine times out of ten, they say, “Wait, WHAT?! How can you even have a LotR musical?! It’s impossible!”
Actually, no, it’s quite possible. It’s been done. And it’s amazing.
(Note: I’ve only listened to the soundtrack, which is the foundation of this review.)
The half-Elven maiden Arwen sings the prologue, urging those to whom she sings to trust their instincts (“Prologue” (‘Lasto i lamath’)). In the region of Middle-earth known as the Shire, Bilbo Baggins, an eccentric and wealthy Hobbit, celebrates his one hundred eleventh birthday by vanishing from his birthday party, leaving his greatest treasure, a mysterious magic Ring, to his young relative Frodo Baggins (“Springle Ring”) . The Ring is greatly desired by the Dark Lord Sauron, who could use it to conquer the world, and must be destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom in Sauron’s country of Mordor. Frodo and his friends Samwise Gamgee, Merry Brandybuck and Pippin Took set out along the road that leads out of the Shire (“The Road Goes On”). Meanwhile, the corrupt wizard Saruman also desires the Ring (“Saruman”).
At the Inn of the Prancing Pony in the village of Bree, Frodo and his friends sing and dance for their fellow guests (“The Cat and the Moon”). With the assistance of the Ranger Strider, the four Hobbits escape pursuit by the Black Riders, servants of Sauron, and safely reach the Ford of Bruinen (“Flight to the Ford”). Awaiting them at the Elven settlement of Rivendell is Arwen, the beloved of Strider, whose true name is Aragorn, heir to the kingship of the Lands of Men (“The Song of Hope”). Arwen’s father, Lord Elrond, calls a Council of Elves, Men and Dwarves at which it is decided that Frodo will carry the Ring to Mordor. The Fellowship of the Ring sets out from Rivendell: Frodo and his three fellow Hobbits, Aragorn, the human warrior Boromir, the Elf Legolas, the Dwarf Gimli, and the great wizard Gandalf the Grey. Arwen and the people of Rivendell invoke the holy power of the star Eärendil to protect and guide the Fellowship on its journey (“Star of Eärendil”). In the ancient, ruined Dwarf-mines of Moria, Gandalf confronts a Balrog, a monstrous creature of evil, and falls into the darkness.
The Fellowship takes refuge in Lothlórien, the mystical realm of Galadriel, an Elven lady of great power and wisdom (“The Golden Wood”, “Lothlórien”). As their journey south continues, Boromir attempts to take the Ring from Frodo; Frodo and Sam flee from the rest of the Fellowship, and Boromir falls in battle. Gandalf returns in time to intervene at the Siege of the City of Kings, where the Lands of Men are under attack by the forces of Saruman and the Orcs of Mordor (“The Siege of the City of Kings”). Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam are joined on their journey by Gollum, a twisted creature who long possessed the Ring and desires to have it for his own again. As they approach Mordor, Frodo and Sam sing to each other about the power of stories (“Now and for Always”). Gollum is moved by their song, but the evil side of his personality asserts itself and he plans to betray the Hobbits (“Gollum/Sméagol”).
If Aragorn can defeat the forces of evil and reclaim the kingship of Men, he will receive Arwen’s hand in marriage (“The Song of Hope” (Duet)). Galadriel casts spells to protect the forces of good in the final battle (“Wonder”, “The Final Battle”). Frodo, Sam and Gollum reach Mount Doom, where the Ring is destroyed when Gollum takes it from Frodo and falls into the fire with it. Aragorn becomes King and marries Arwen (“City of Kings”), but Frodo, wearied by his quest, and the great Elves must leave Middle-earth forever and sail to the lands of the West (“Epilogue (Farewells)”). Bidding farewell to their friend, Sam, Merry and Pippin resume their lives in the Shire (“Finale”). (from Wikipedia)
As you can see, LotRM follows the book and, in some cases, is more true to it than the movie trilogy. In some ways, however, it’s a little different. For instance, there is no Eowyn character (or Faramir – and all the Faramir Fans say, “Nooooooo!”), and the roles of Theoden and Denathor have been combined. (I know, right?) However, other than that, the story is the same. It’s really amazing how they pulled it off on stage, in front of a live audience, for 492 performances.
Unfortunately, the musical tanked due to money and budgeting issues and a few minor accidents on set. As one reviewer put it, “Stripping away the beautiful sets, lavish staging, seventeen lifts and three revolves, LotRM was at its base level a confused, plodding, dull selection of scenes from the books – with the occasional moment of brilliance, just as a reminder of how good the show could have been. The challenge of adapting all three books (over nine hours worth of film) into one three hour long stage show (incorporating songs and circus style staging) was simply too great – and the result was plain for all to see.” It was a huge job to undertake, and I think everyone involved should be commended for their efforts.
I discovered LotRM in early 2008, bought the soundtrack soon afterward, and have been hooked on it ever since. The tunes get stuck in my head – which is delightful – and I’ve been trying to master the many fiddle solos in ‘The Cat and the Moon’ ever since. My sister and I bought several highlights from the album, which I will review below. If you only have a short amount of time to “try out” this musical, I’d recommend these songs.
‘The Road Goes On’ is one of the first songs in the musical. It starts out with Frodo and Sam, then Merry and Pippin join in, then the Elves and Rangers join in, and it just gets bigger and bigger.
‘The Cat and the Moon’ is the song that Frodo and the other hobbits sing at The Prancing Pony, and it’s one of the most toe-tapping songs I’ve ever heard. My siblings and I have done many a jig to this song, and my brother and I have even played it and danced around a fire once. It’s that kind of song.
‘Lothlorien’ is another favorite. Legolas starts it, then he is joined by the other elves. Galadriel (wonderfully played by Laura Michelle Kelly, of Mary Poppins: The Musical fame) comes in for a solo in the beginning of the second verse. (The first day I was able to hit all of her high notes, I nearly jumped for joy!)
‘Now and For Always’ is arguably my favorite song in the entire soundtrack. It depicts the friendship between Frodo and Sam to perfection.
‘Star of Earendil’ is one of my new favorites. It wasn’t among the “highlights” that my sister and I bought, but it definitely should have been. It’s Arwen’s solo and quite beautiful.
‘Wonder’ is the last of my favorites. It’s one of Galadriel’s solos and such a pretty song. (It’s one of my go-to songs when I feel like I need to sing something big and powerful.) ‘Shine forever, beacon of light! Blaze in the air, vanquishing night!’
Although the musical didn’t do very well, I commend everyone’s efforts. Ever since I first heard about the musical, I’ve wanted to see it. When it officially closed in 2008, I was heartbroken. However, now that it’s being revived for a world tour, I’m looking forward to seeing it! (WOOT!!)
This musical is highly, highly recommended and I think every true Tolkiendil should see it – or, at the very least, listen to the music.