(4 of 4)
For technical legerdemain and vaulting athleticism, LOTR can't match Ką, Cirque's Las Vegas martial-arts extravaganza. The Toronto show's battle scenes are pedestrian, and toward the end, a group of fierce warriors breaks into a heavy two-step, like clumsy backup singers in a doo-wop group. But this isn't an all-singing show, and it certainly isn't all dancing. It is a musical that becomes a spectacular morality play, an adventure with a soft and stricken heart.
At one point, Bilbo, the hobbit whose accidental custodianship of the ring would stoke the War of Middle-earth, plaintively asks, "Don't adventures ever have an end?" For Wallace, Warchus & Co., the answer is: not this one, not yet. Rather than a brisk, there-and-back-again jaunt, they are in the middle of a marathon. "Hopefully," says McKenna, "by the time we finish here, we'll have a very sound blueprint of the show we're going to do in London." They plan a West End opening of LOTR a year from now, then Hamburg or Berlin, perhaps Broadway in 2008. (Wallace has assured his Canadian partners that Toronto will be the show's only North American venue for 18 months.) But the New York City critics coming to see the show this week won't be looking for a blueprint. And McKenna insists, "This isn't a tryout. This is the real thing."
He's right. If this LOTR isn't quite the one Ring to rule them all, it's the real Middle-earth deal. Against odds that would make Aragon flinch, the Ring fellowship has staged the season's definitive megamusical, 560 km north of Times Square. For now, Broadway is off-Toronto.