London, Oct. 22: After searching far and wide for the correct composer, they came to Middle India and found a curly-haired man with a pleasant face, an incessantly ringing mobile telephone, a bulging wallet and answering to the strange name of A.R. Rahman.
Thus it was that the producers of The Lord of the Rings, a new musical, decided that they had found their man.
A statement was issued yesterday by Peter Thompson, the high priest of West End theatre PRs in London. It said that Rahman, “India’s most popular composer”, would write the score for the first major stage musical adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic trilogy.
Film versions of the first two books have been worldwide hits, and the third movie is due out in December.
The success of the films has led to huge sales of the books. The statement made it clear that the producers had landed a big catch for the £8-million production, expected to hold its world premiere in London in spring, 2005.
Thompson said: “A.R. Rahman has composed the soundtracks for over 50 Bollywood films, which have sold over 100 million soundtrack albums. He has also composed for television and recording artists. A.R. Rahman is best known in the west for writing the music for Bombay Dreams, currently playing to sell-out audiences in London and opening in Broadway in spring, 2004.”
Rahman will collaborate with Finland’s influential contemporary folk group, Varttina, in composing the score.
The musical will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the publication of the complete trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King.
The Finnish connection, Thompson pointed out, is logical. “The original inspiration for Tolkien’s stories and languages (such as Elvish), and for much of Varttina’s music and lyrics, is the Kalevala, Finland’s national epic of mythological songs, poems and stories.”
Rahman was “discovered” by composer Andrew Lloyd-Webber, who tracked him down with Shekhar Kapur’s help after hearing his music in Bollywood movies screened by Channel 4.
The new musical’s main producer, Kevin Wallace, said: “We are recreating Middle Earth and we needed the music that goes with it to be unique. A.R. Rahman writes brilliant melodies with an exotic quality and we know he will write something which audiences will adore.”
Wallace, whose credits as producer includes the Andrew Lloyd-Webber musicals Whistle Down the Wind, The Beautiful Game, Jesus Christ Superstar and Sunset Boulevard, added: “A fusion of A.R. Rahman’s and Varttina’s exceptional talents and contemporary sounds, rooted in the antiquity of their respective traditions, will provide Tolkien’s mythological world of Middle Earth with a pure, unique and dynamic score.”
He also said: “At the heart of this spectacular epic is an intense story of personal and collective endeavour that grips the audience’s imagination, immersing them completely in the experience. The music of A.R. Rahman and Varttina has the dramatic range to do just that.”
The show’s £8-million budget is £1.5 million more than for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, currently the most expensive show on the West End. The producers hope to take the show around the world.
Wallace enthused: “This will be like nothing the West End has ever seen before. We will search far and wide to find our Frodo. We are setting out to recreate Tolkien’s fantasy world on the stage and it will have a real sense of wonder and awe for the audience. To do justice to The Lord of the Rings, you have to pull out all the stops.”
For composing the music, Rahman could easily demand — and get — anything between £500,000 and £1 million.