The stage version of The Lord of the Rings, the most expensive musical in West End history, is set to close in July.
Producers bowed to the inevitable after the show at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, which cost £12.5m to stage, received a critical mauling throughout most of its run. The final curtain will come down on 19 July.
It marks the end, in Britain at least, of a production that has disappointed from the start. Launched amid huge fanfare in Toronto in March 2006 after producers were unable to find a British theatre of sufficient size, the musical promised to continue the extraordinary revival of J R R Tolkien's fantasy epic following the director Peter Jackson's multiple Oscar-winning cinematic trilogy.
Instead, it was savaged by Canadian critics. The Toronto Star labelled it "Bored of the Rings", while Variety dubbed it "a saga of short people burdened by power jewellery". The show closed six months later.
Drafted across the Atlantic to replace Mel Brooks' hugely successful The Producers in Drury Lane, the show was drastically rewritten to give it a shorter running time, though, even with 40 minutes knocked off, it still lasted for three hours.
Six weeks of preview shows were also scheduled in an attempt to heighten enthusiasm and garner positive publicity, but they proved an inauspicious start.
Last May, the actor Adam Salter, who plays a ranger in the production, got his leg caught in the floorboards during one of the preview performances. Half-an-hour into the three-hour production Salter screamed "My leg, my leg", as fellow actors dressed as hobbits rushed to his rescue. The curtains swiftly came down, with some members of the audience presuming Salter was still in role. The show was cancelled for two days.
The accident proved to be a bad omen. Despite flashy pyrotechnics, acrobatics, dozens of innovative special effects and a £1m revolving stage that concealed a series of hydraulic lifts, critics lampooned the show as more middle-of-the-road than Middle Earth.
The visual spectacle of dancing orcs, hairy hobbits and singing elves did little to impress a wide spectrum of reviewers. One critic, quoting the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, said the show's run would be "nasty, brutish, and short". The Sun pronounced it simply "Flawed of the Rings".
Despite encouraging remarks by thespian luminaries including Kevin Spacey and Dame Judi Dench, who described the show as "a terrific treat" for Tolkien lovers, the show never fully recovered.
Now, after 492 performances, the lavish musical is to sing its last. Although a year-long run is far from a disgrace, The Producers lasted for twice as long, while its predecessor, the stage adaptation of Mary Poppins, ran in London for three years.
The show's producer, Kevin Wallace, remained defiant. "The show's creative team has proven just how enchanting, exhilarating and powerfully entertaining The Lord of the Rings can be live on stage", he said. "We will continue to bring this incredible theatrical event to audiences in London until 19 July, and we look forward to presenting the show to new audiences abroad from 2009."
Indeed, plans are afoot to reopen the show in Germany with a German-speaking cast, while a separate version is also being planned for a tour of New Zealand, Australia and the Far East next year.
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