As Trevor and I Were Saying...

Reporter: Peter Lathan

Dateline: 1st June, 2003

Back in January I wrote that it seemed to me that the big blockbuster musical has had its day:

I foresee (I concluded) a move away from the big spectacular musicals - a form which probably reached its peak with The Lion King - towards what we might call the chamber musical, the sort of show which is emerging from off-Broadway and London fringe experiments: shows such as Six Women with Brain Death, for example, or Falsettoland.

Last week Trevor Nunn, in an interview after receiving his knighthood at Buckingham Palace, made if clear that he thought the blockbuster was finished too.

(It really is quite nice when you find that someone like Nunn agrees with you - especially when you said it first!)

And then along comes Lord of the Rings - The Musical which is going, the producers tell us, to be the most expensive show ever produced in the West End. I confess that I don't know the work of composers Stephen Keeling and Bernd Stromberger, so it would be wrong of me to comment on their fitness to create such a piece, but I can't help feeling that something on the scale of Tolkien's epic requires a Wagnerian talent - and that is not something usually found among composers of music theatre, as I am sure even ALW and Stephen Sondheim would agree.

And the scale of the whole thing! It's Der Ring des Nibelungen rather than Les Miserables. How can this vast piece be "the two-hour traffic of our stage"? Peter Jackson's immensely condensed film version is going to be nine hours long when it's finished and, although he has handled the cuts and condensing very well, there is so much missing. Surely there is a point beyond which it is impossible to telescope the story without making it unintelligible or completely false to the original - or both?

We shall, of course, have to wait and see, and it is both unfair and mischievous to denigrate before we see the finished piece. I do, however, have a suspicion that Trevor and I will be proved to be right!