Saturday, February 18, 2006

Lord of the Rings, Toronto style

Today I went with my wife, father and brother-in-law to the matinee of Lord of the Rings, at the Princess of Wales Theatre. This was a Christmas present to the family, and we attended the show in shifts to accomodate the kids.

This was a preview performance, and as such it's not quite proper to write a review, but dammit, we spent several hundred dollars and 5 hours of our lives, so, if not a review, at least some impressions.

The first thing that hits you is the spectacle of it all. There is a very complex rotating stage, with lighting effects and sets that take your breath away.

Then Gandalf shows up.

And he....


I mean, really, really sucks.

Astonishingly poor.

We're talking 3rd grade Christmas pageant level acting here.

This is Brent Carver, a highly accomplished and acclaimed actor. But inexplicably, his Gandalf is absent minded, soft spoken, and has about as much gravitas as a used paper cup. It doesn't help that he seems to barely remember his lines, often pausing in the oddest places until he can think of what to say.

Oh well, one actor that doesn't work. Moving on, the show gets more spectacular as it goes. It dazzles you for a while, until the spectacle starts to get just a wee bit redundant, and you find you are thinking about some of the other aspects of the show.

Gee, almost every line seems to be pure exposition. Hmm, none of the songs are too memorable. Heck, my butt sure is starting to feel numb.

There are positive thoughts as well. Gollum is great. Galadriel certainly can sing, if not act. The wind that blows over the audience as the Balrog rises is exhilarating.

Then near the end of Act 2, a major problem causes an unscheduled intermission, and all momentum is lost.

Act 3 is a long slog to the finish line. There are still plenty of "wow, how'd they do that?" moments, but for me, the prevailing thought is "I'm hungry and I'm ready to go."

This was, as I said, a preview, and there are many aspects of the show that will surely improve over the next weeks. But, bottom line, it just doesn't work as a piece of storytelling and I suspect it never will.

That's not a review. Just an impression.

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