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Hobbits go legit with Tolkien tuner

McKenna, Keeling, Stromberger to work on West End prod'n

LONDON — Fancy a singing, dancing Hobbit?

That wish may be granted in 2005, when a musical version of “The Lord of the Rings” lands on the West End.

Early plans are for an opening in just under two years of the first major stage musical adaptation of the J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy. The lavish theater production will, of course, bow on the tail of director Peter Jackson’s phenomenally successful film triptych of the same source.

The £8 million ($13.1 million) staging — a hefty figure by West End standards — will have book and lyrics by Shaun McKenna and music by Stephen Keeling and Bernd Stromberger. McKenna and Keeling previously collaborated on the West End musical flop “Maddie,” starring Summer Rognlie.

The first two film installments of New Line Cinema’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “The Fellowship of the Ring” and “The Two Towers,” have earned nearly $1.8 billion worldwide in global B.O.

The franchise’s final chapter, “The Return of the King,” is due in theaters Dec. 17.

“The Lord of the Rings” producers are Kevin Wallace, formerly an inhouse producer for Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group, and Oscar-winning film producer Saul Zaentz, whose credits include “The English Patient,” “Amadeus” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

Zaentz has owned, since 1976, Tolkien Enterprises, which controls the film and legit rights.

The director-designer team of Matthew Warchus and Rob Howell is repped on the West End by “Our House,” the musical scored to the back catalog of Brit pop group Madness. The show at the Cambridge Theater was this year’s surprise Olivier Award winner for musical.

More recently, the two paired up on “Tell Me on a Sunday,” the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Don Black solo show starring Denise Van Outen, which has just extended for a month (through Aug. 23) at the Gielgud Theater.

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