Cast chosen for stage version of Lord of the Rings

The mammoth stage version of The Lord of the Rings, opening in Toronto next March, has found its Gandalf, Frodo, Gollum and more.

Brent Carver, the Tony-winning star of Kiss of the Spider Woman, will portray the majestic wizard Gandalf, while Frodo, the ring-bearer, will be played by British actor James Loye. Michael Therriault, currently appearing as Motel the tailor in the Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof, will portray Gollum. The director is Matthew Warchus.

Casting for the show was announced on Monday in Toronto, where the production, which will cost an estimated $22-million, starts rehearsals in October.
It opens on March 23 at the Princess of Wales Theatre. Preview performances begin on February 2.

The 51-year-old Carver is one of Canada’s best-known stage actors and is now playing Gregers in a critically acclaimed revival of Ibsen’s The Wild Duck at Toronto’s Soulpepper theatre company.

Ring producer Kevin Wallace called the four-month audition process “very intensive and comprehensive”.

About 4 000 actors—from all across Canada—auditioned for the more than 50 roles in the production, which covers all three books of JRR Tolkien’s famous trilogy.

Published 50 years ago, Tolkien’s mystical adventure has been discovered by a new generation through Peter Jackson’s Academy Award-winning trio of films, which have grossed more than $3-billion around the world.

The books have been adapted for the stage by Shaun McKenna and Warchus. Its musical score is by AR Rahman, composer of Bombay Dreams, the Finnish group Varttina and Christopher Nightingale, the show’s orchestrator and musical supervisor. McKenna and Warchus collaborated on the lyrics.

Those 4 000 performers were whittled down last May to 350, Wallace explained in an interview from Toronto. Six weeks ago, that number was reduced to 120 and from that group, the creative team chose the 55 actors who are in the show.

Wallace said the team was looking for actors who have distinct, very different kinds of performance skills.

“It’s a classical piece of theatre as far as the language is concerned,” the producer said.

“At the same time, it’s flooded with music. So it requires a very particular vocal delivery, which is a nontraditional musical-theater vocal delivery.

“We were looking for actors who were capable of stripping their voices back to a more pure sound so they could deliver the songs these composers have created.”

Yet Wallace stressed the show is not a musical, but rather more like the Royal Shakespeare Company’s famous production of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby.

“It is a hybrid of form, requiring close collaboration” between its various creators, he said.

“People don’t stop and sing and tell us how they feel. Music is used as it is in the book—in that different species harness music as part of their cultures.”

Meanwhile, New Line Cinema has granted game maker Electronic Arts (EA the rights to develop games based on the books using the likeness of characters depicted in director Jackson’s films.

The games maker based in California’s Redwood City already had rights to bring the Rings characters to games consoles, but the new accord extends those rights to new products.

EA is developing two new games in the blockbuster series—The Lord of the Rings—The Battle for Middle Earth II and The Lord of the Rings—Tactics, EA said in a statement.

EA said it had also struck a deal with Tolkien Enterprises, which administers licensing for Tolkien’s trilogy, giving it rights to use events and characters from the books not used in the Jackson’s films.

Tolkien Enterprises previously had a deal with Vivendi Universal Games, preventing EA from using any elements outside of New Line’s movies when it made its last four Lord of the Rings games.

Both agreements run through the end of 2007, with options for renewal. - Sapa-AP, Sapa-AFP

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