Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Lost Lord of the Rings Musical

Tony Danza as Tom Bombadil
Over the past few days, the internet has been aflutter as official pictures from Peter Jackson's upcoming adaptation of the Hobbit appeared on the film's facebook site and yahoo movies.

Excitement is building steadily for Jackson's return to middle earth, and with good reason.
Jackson brought a series of books thought to be unfilmable to the screen. Prior attempts to adapt the Lord of the Rings were either shot down by JRR Tolkien himself, or were too expensive to finance. And while Ralph Bashki's animated version was a moderate success, it remains incomplete, ending with the battle at Helm's Deep.

Until Jackson, no one was able to tell the complete story in a way that satisfied Tolkien's mythos.

But Irwin Allen tried, and almost succeeded.

In 1983, Allen (known for producing a string of blockbuster disaster movies in the 1970s) came across a treatment by Forrest J. Ackerman, Morton Grady Zimmerman, and Al Brodax. In 1982, Allen signed a deal with CBS to produce a series of television musical mini series, and in the Lord of the Rings treatment he saw something he could adapt for the small screen. 

A young Eric Bogosian tests out his Elrond costume
The musical was greenlit, apparently it was cast, and some filming may have been completed. However, less that one week into production a dispute regarding who held the rights to Tolkien's work arose. MGM still held the rights to adapt to film from their acquisition for Bashki's adaptation, and while CBS had signed a deal for exclusive television rights, the burgeoning home video market at the time threw a monkey wrench into the plans, and the musical was scrapped. Allen's crew took many of the songs written for LOTR and rewrote them for an Alice in Wonderland adaptation.

Hirsch and Bosley relaxing between takes
With the recent release of CBS documents to the public, information surrounding the musical is starting to become move available. We have learned that apparently Carol Channing was originally to play Galadriel. When the musical folded the songs were repurposed to apply to the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland.  Sheman Helmsley was approached to play Pippin. In a casting decision that would please many fans unhappy with the character's exclusion from Jackson's LOTR adaptaion, Tony Danza was to play Tom Bombadil. For Saruman it was Taxi's Judd Hirsch, and for Gandalf, the stately and fatherly Tom Bosley.  Unfortunately we will never get to see this adaptation, but we can sleep safe in the knowledge that had it been completed, it would have surely changed the world.


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