Tuesday, May 16, 2006

LOTR Magic

As visual spectacle, the LOTR musical was pure magic. Obviously a lot of effort was put into the design and construction of the stage, as it was a large circular stage that was comprised of at least two rings around a central circle. The central circle could rise to at least 12 feet above the stage, and sink far enough that people disappeared into the hole. The middle ring was broken into segments, each of which could be raised and lowered independently. All three rings could rotate in either direction. The stage was used for a number of different effects: to convey a sense of the journey, to act as physical representations of bridges, mountains, caves, tunnels, to mimic the act of climbing up into Lothlorien, to enable the fight scenes to continue for long periods of time with only 5 men playing orcs (the dead ones would rotate around the back, and then be able to come to life out of sight of the audience). The lighting was amazing; it was used to convey sunrises, nightfall, the flickering flame and darkness of Mordor, the implacable hatred of Sauron's eye, and it interacted with the thorny branches permanently installed on the walls on either side of the stage entering into the theatre and used frequently as a backdrop to convey the sense of warm green spring/summer forests, or the bluster and falling leaves of autumn forests. They even went so far as to use really powerful flames to issue smoke and bits of black paper into the audience when the Balrog appeared. They also used an interesting backdrop placed in the middle of the stage with a circle of glass in the centre(apparently embedded with black mesh - I didn't notice it but Matthias did) to cast shadow puppet plays where you could see the actors on the other side of the glass and simultaneously watch their shadows on the circle. The best use of this was to tell the story of Bilbo Baggins adventure and encounter with Gollum and the one ring. The black rider's horses were amazing creations of black wire, moved on sticks (no less!) with a sinuous motion that was deeply creepy and effectively conveyed a sense of decay and zombie-like half-life. The orcs were likewise fantastic creations; some of the men were walking on contraptions that raised them more than a foot off the stage, which enabled them to shamble and move with a eerie grace at the same time.

If only I hadn't started taking singing lessons, I wouldn't have known how bad the singing was! The quality of voices was not strong - I get the feeling that they picked actors for their acting ability and resemblance to the cast of the movie more than their singing talent.

And of course, nothing can improve the essential flaws in the LOTR plot structure, which in my opinion are the lack of characterization and the continuous battle scenes.

But still, it was a great way to spend three hours!


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