The Lord of the Rings: A Musical Tale is returning as an immersive experience. The musical adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, directed by Matthew Warchus, first debuted in 2006 and closed its London run in 2008. Now it’s reopening in the English countryside, part of a sudden revival in interest in Tolkien’s work within popular culture. According to Deadline, the musical will set up shop at the Watermill Theatre in Berkshire (the county next door to Oxfordshire, where Tolkien wrote his tales), using its greenspace to create the Shire, where 20 actors will perform in the open air.
The musical will opens on July 25th and will run for 12 weeks. Its book and lyrics are by Shaun McKenna and Warchus, featuring music by A.R. Rahman (Bombay Dreams, Slumdog Millionaire), Finnish folk group Värttinä, and Christopher Nightingale (Matilda the Musical).
The Lord of the Rings; A Musical Tale debuted in Toronto in 2006, featuring a cast of 65 actors. An overhauled version of the show opened in London in 2007. Theater critics panned it, and it closed after a year without recouping its considerable budget, becoming the greatest commercial failure in West End history. However, there’s a feeling that the immersive riverside setting offered by the Watermill could be what the show needs to click with fans. “We’re going to give audiences a very visceral experience,” says the theater’s artistic director, Paul Hart.
The play adapts the entire The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Hart is directing, with Simon Kenny designing. The story starts as it does in the books, with Bilbo Baggins’ birthday party. The production then uses its actors and puppets to tell the story of Frodo’s journey from the Shire to Mordor, where he must destroy the One Ring. The performance on Bilbo’s canonical birthday, September 22nd, will open with a special treat as the production celebrates in the garden before beginning its usual tale.
Several projects are happening that adapt or expand on J.R.R. Tolkien’s works. Prime Video was first out of the gate with the first live-action story set in Middle-earth since Peter Jackson directed The Hobbit films for Warner Bros. Its show, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is a prequel to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings set in Middle-earth’s second age. Its second season is in production.
There’s been a flurry of activity since Embracer Group acquired the rights to Tolkien’s work. The company has multiple The Lord of the Rings video games in development. It also worked out a deal with Warner Bros. Pictures for the studio to produce new films based on Tolkien’s stories, including the upcoming animated feature film The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim.