Mar. 26, 2006

Lord of the Rings

IMG_0012.JPGFinally I turn my keyboard to the Lord of the Rings Gala. In spite of an early start a rented stretch limo (booked by the Mirvishes for after the performance) we only arrived moments before the lights went down. I think we managed to snag a single flute of champagne. There were too many stops to pick up companions (we waited twenty minutes for Ferris...) and traffic was backed up eight blocks away. I redirected the driver north so we could come from a quiet direction and we arrived just in time. There was a huge lineup, but luckily the producer's partner William was there to wave us through. We were mostly seated together, and in the end Sheryl's daughter Tamara and her husband were given tickets too. She'd been to the preview with my son a week ago, and her husband unsuccessfully floated the idea of "just joining us at the after-party". They came down separately and beat us there in spite of a late start, so they had their proper share of champagne.

The stage was an immediate presence. It was encrusted by branches that reached out along the theatre walls, and was full of Hobbit cast members dancing to folk songs while the audience arrived. So you could say that the performance was even longer than the listed 3 1/2 hours. The stage floor itself was an amazing component, with circular sections frequently rotating and rising or falling to enhance stage movement. Fantastic.

Knowing the books and films I detected a few plot lurches, but they were unavoidable given the compression the story had to undergo. Early previews were almost an hour longer. James Loye and Peter Howe as Frodo and Samwise showed their character's bond and determination well, but the most captivating performance was unquestionably Michael Therriault's Gollum. What a juicy role! The Orcs, Dark Riders and Ents were powerful presences on stage. The Orcs were suitably gruesome and some leapt around the stage on spring-loaded boots. The Dark Riders and Ents towered above everyone on long stilts to great dramatic effect.

The most intense scene was the end of the first act when Gandalf confronts the Balrog. Talk about immersive... The scene that worked best for me though was the first part of the second act, when the Fellowship arrives in Lothlorien. Very magical and lyrical staging. I guess it's all about Elven queens with me. There was a great buzz in the crowd after the show, although the critics have apparently given mixed reviews.

IMG_0056.JPGThe after-party was held at the Royal York hotel. 2000+ guests, all dressed in "black tie", enjoyed dozens of buffet stations (salmon loaves, oysters on a shell, arctic char, roast beef, cheese and dessert trays everywhere...) Kevin introduced his cast and then Värttinä, the Finnish pop group that collaborated on the music, gave a short concert. We stayed until about 2:00 AM, which is when we finally managed to track down Kevin and offer our congratulations.

Listening to: Glamour Profession by Steely Dan from Gaucho.

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