Toronto will praise ‘Lord’ come spring

Tolkien tuner hits the stage

TORONTO — One ring, two countries, $23 million.

That’s the message that rang out loud and clear Wednesday to the SRO crowd of 2,000 who filled Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theater for the official announcement of the tuner based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.”

Show is skedded to go into rehearsals Oct. 24. Previews will start Feb. 2, with a gala opening set for March 23, 2006.

In addition to speeches from the creative and producing forces behind the mega-spectacle, the press confab featured a slick 15-minute film on the project’s origins and an impressive live sampling of the special effects and choral music.

Reps from Canadian civic, provincial and federal governments said each sector intends to supply $2.5 million –through loans or in-kind contributions — to make up a major portion of Canada’s $16.5 million share of the $23 million capitalization, with additional British involvement.

Unions offer concessions

Lead Canuck producer David Mirvish said the three major unions involved with the production — Canadian Actors’ Equity, the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the Toronto Musicians Union — have offered concessions to allow the three-hour-plus show to run without incurring crippling overtime costs.

Canadian Equity also has agreed to allow up to five U.K. performers to be part of the 65-member company, though director Matthew Warchus confirmed he first intends to hold open auditions in several major Canadian cities.

Production was conceived by Kevin Wallace to open in the West End this year, but when no suitably sized theater was available in London, he accepted an offer from the Mirvish organization to open the show in Toronto.

Run is guaranteed to be exclusive for a minimum of nine months before a London opening and a minimum of 18 months before playing any other venue in North America.

Bump for Toronto legit

Project is seen as a giant boost to Toronto legit, which has been suffering since the 2003 SARS crisis. Recent sit-down productions of “The Producers” and “Hairspray” shuttered early, though the current tour of “Wicked” has sold out its seven-week Toronto stand.

“Lord of the Rings” can play to 832,000 people per year at capacity, and Mirvish estimated its annual economic impact on Toronto at more than $600 million.

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