One Critic to Ruin Them All

It was the critics' fault. The Canadian dollar is too high. U.S. tourists are too afraid to travel. Gas costs too much. People don’t understand British theatre. It was SARS. Our audiences were all drunken idiots. Ok, I made up the last one, but it was the only thing theatre producer Kevin Wallace didn’t blame the failure of the Toronto production of The Lord of the Rings on.

But it was the Gollum-like theatre critics that took the brunt of the blame for dooming the $28-million adaptation of Tolkien’s trilogy.
"I would not discount the role of the critics," Wallace said. "We were given a rough ride here in North America, and we struggled with a mixed message. In the Toronto press, the vote was three to one (against the show). That became an issue… If the critics don’t think they have power, believe me they do."
At the same news conference where Wallace heaped criticism on the critics for being critical, he barely acknowledged their complaints: it was too long, had no heart, didn’t have enough music, it was confusing and didn’t connect with audiences, who subsequently didn’t shell out $125 bucks for a ticket.

Clearly, Wallace doesn’t understand the role of critics – they are not community boosters, despite what he may believe. And if any show should have been critic proof, Rings was it. Millions have read the books and seen the movies, so it’s not like people didn’t know what the show was about. But perhaps it was the over familiarity that put off fans, who didn’t feel the need to see Frodo again so soon.

I haven’t seen the show myself, but I did (and still do) plan to, despite the critical attention, because I’m interested. I’ve had friends who went and enjoyed it, and that’s more important to me. It was the same way when we saw Avenue Q in New York – on the advice of a friend. We went to see Wicked last year and I never read a single review, we were interested in the story.

Critics don’t sink shows – if they had that power, Mamma Mia would never have lasted. They can help inform opinion, but a show will sink or swim on its own merits.


  1. AnonymousJune 29, 2006

    Some things just should not be made into musical theatre. Lord of the Rings is one of those things. The Lord of the Rings deserves a more dignified adaptation.
    Symphonic tribute...possibly
    Wagnerian-type opera...maybe

    When you see it, please write a review. I am curious.

  2. AnonymousJune 30, 2006

    It may indeed be terrible as theatre but I have heard it is quite the spectacle. I guess I'll find out. Seeing as Peter jackson needed almost nine hours to tell the tale, I really don't know how they will do it in three plus.