Episode 16
July 9, 2020

Turn Off the Dark Lord

Hosted by Jared Pechaček, Ned Raggett, and Oriana Schwindt

Jared, Oriana and Ned talk about Ned’s choice of topic: the Lord of the Rings stage musical. Growing out of a failed German attempt to stage a version of The Hobbit in 1997 and eventually turning into a high level and high budget production that ran in Toronto in 2006 and London in 2007, the musical attracted both a lot of attention and a lot of talent, from future Tony winners to regular standbys on the London stage and beyond, not to mention a remarkable combination of composer A.R. Rahman and the Finnish avant garde folk group Värttinä on the music itself. And yet, in the end, it was a flop in both of its incarnations, not making back the considerable investment made into it, and it’s essentially disappeared now. What can we make about what the production was like from the scattered bits of evidence that’s available online or in print? What elements about it succeed and which other ones needed much more work? Is it worth reclaiming in the end or is it something that was simply an attempt that didn’t work? And above all else, why in the world are the songs almost entirely unmemorable?

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Show Notes.

Jared’s doodle, putting the ‘leg’ in Legolas.

Take Your Pick! Do please join us for the ultimate Tolkien fancast episode on July 18th, or catch up with the webcast later if needed. (And hey, subscribe to Megaphonic’s YouTube channel while you’re at it?)

By all means listen in for the Tolkien content in Episode 72 of It’s Just a Show, but explore the whole series! It’s marvellous, as is the show it loves and talks about in detail.

The news about The Nature of Middle-earth is absolutely major.

Do check out Vinyar Tengwar! It’s a wonderful publication.

HarperCollins’s announcement about Andy Serkis’s new audiobook of The Hobbit.

Variety’s news story confirming that Amazon’s series as well as other productions are good to go again in New Zealand.

The Daily Mail’s interview with Morfydd Clark.

The new casting announcement for extras for the Amazon series.

Peter Jackson’s fond memories of Ian Holm. (Brian Sibley had some good thoughts too.)

The archived website of the stage musical.

Gary Russell’s official ‘companion’ book to the musical can be found via tons of second-hand sellers and remains the key source of information for the history of the entire production.

A B-roll of scenes from the Toronto production.

The New York Times’s review of the Toronto production...wasn’t thrilled.

The National Geographic documentary about the London staging of the musical.

An official ‘behind the scenes’ video from the London production.

The New York Times once more, on the run up to the London staging.

A (London) Times piece also on the run up.

Scenes from the London production.

The 2007 episode of the UK podcast Musical Talk about the London production, literally recorded in the audience between acts and after it ended. (A great on-the-spot listen!)

The Guardian wasn’t taken by it. (The same reviewer had given the Toronto one a chance.)

TheOneRing.net provided a very helpful breakdown about what was changed or altered from the book in the London staging, along with a couple of comparative notes to the Toronto one.

News from when the London production wrapped up. (And a fan tribute -- there are fans of this musical, no lie!)

The London cast recording is streaming in various locations (like this one).

Do yourself a huge favor and check out A. R. Rahman’s work.

Similarly, Värttinä will never steer you wrong. (As Jared recommends, give an ear to their 2000 album Ilmatar sometime.)

Laura Michelle Kelly, to give her full name, continues to thrive on the stage in both the UK and the US after her stint spinning through the air and singing as Galadriel (though like all of us is currently waiting everything out).

Jason Robert Brown would have been great for this. But alas.

Rob Howell has gone from strength to strength since this production, picking up two Tonys for design among other honors.

Hamilton! You’ve heard of it, we’re willing to bet.

Michael Thierrault’s thoughts on playing Gollum onstage in both productions is worth a watch.

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