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'Lord of the Rings' Opens on London Stage

The most expensive stage show ever has opened in London's West End. Transformed from page to screen and now the stage, J.R.R. Tolkien's classic trilogy "The Lord of the Rings" opened (Tuesday, June 19th) at the British capital's Theatre Royal in a lavish U.K. and European Premiere. From London, Paul Burge reports for VOA News.

From Middle Earth to Central London, "The Lord of the Rings" is transformed to the Theatre Royal in the British capital's West End.

It is a fantasy tale of elves, hobbits, battles and a ring, except this time Tolkien's trilogy is brought to the stage through music, dance and striking set design.

Each magical world from the Shire to Mount Doom is recreated using huge lifting gear that makes the stage revolve and move up and down.

The show's director, Matthew Warchus, says although the story is compressed, the stage adds immediacy.

"I think what's exciting for people who know 'The Lord of the Rings' is that the form of theater, the event of theater is so immediate -- it's like being in the same room as a battle, or as the 'Ballorog' or the 'Spider' -- you're there with them in a way you're not in any form," says Warchus.

"The Lord of the Rings" really is a theatrical spectacle on a huge scale, featuring an ensemble of more than 70 actors, singers and musicians. Not to mention the 500 costumes.

But a huge show does not come cheap. At more than $24 million the "Lord of the Rings" is the most expensive piece of theater ever staged.

But with the success of the books and films the show's creators are hoping for full houses, night after night.

Alistair Smith from the Theatre newspaper says the show will benefit from London's tourist trade.

"I think tourist trade is going to be important, especially over the summer,” says Smith. “It's opening just before the peak tourist season and I think U.S. trade is going to be really important."

And it is just the kind of trade the show needs. Last year the production opened in Toronto, Canada, to mixed reviews and closed after just a six-month run.

This prompted a major review by its creative team. The four hour running time has been cut to three, with many scenes and songs completely rewritten.

While the reworked version looks to pull in lovers of Tolkien's Middle Earth, it also hopes to create a new following -- this time in the theater.