‘Rings’ rolls to London’s Drury Lane

Tolkien tuner gets the Royal treatment

“The Rings” are rolling into London.

Producer Kevin Wallace announced Thursday that his $24 million stage production of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” would open at the Theater Royal, Drury Lane, on June 19.

The show’s arrival follows the London closing of “The Producers” on Jan. 6, after a two-year run that broke box office records both in the West End and at the Drury Lane, recouping its £5.5 million ($10.1 million) capitalization in record time.

The “LOTR” news ended weeks of speculation that the show might choose instead to make its European debut in Germany, although Wallace confirmed to Daily Variety that he’s still in discussions with Stage Entertainment about launching a German production in 2008.

Wallace had originally planned to open his epic theater journey to Middle-earth in London in 2005, but with no theater available that was large enough to cope with the technical demands, he entered into a partnership to stage the show in Canada.

Toronto theater magnate David Mirvish and rock impresario Michael Cohl aggressively sought out the property.

The various unions made concessions to allow the 3½-hour production to become viable, and the civic and provincial governments came up with interest-free loans and other considerations to sweeten the pot.

Wallace joined with the Canucks in presenting the $25 million show, which opened March 23 in Toronto after a troubled preview period during which excessive length (close to five hours at its first preview) and technical malfunctions plagued the mammoth production.

Current plans are to keep the Toronto show running at least through the end of September “and as long after that as there is interest,” Wallace said. “We are currently meeting and exceeding our expectations.”

More substantial rewrites and changes are on the table for London and Wallace is currently attending a series of workshops aimed at bringing the show’s running time down to three hours.

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