JEFF WAYNE’S MUSICAL VERSION OF THE WAR OF THE WORLDS – BRIGHTON CENTRE 27.3.22
“No one would have believed, in the last years of the 19th century, that human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of space. No one could have dreamed that we were being scrutinised, as someone with a microscope studies creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. Few men even considered the possibility of life on other planets. And yet, across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely, they drew their plans against us”… The opening words from HG Wells ‘War Of The Worlds’ and also the opening of the show, spoken by Liam Neeson.
The iconic album, of which more than 15 million copies have been sold since its release in 1978, and now, 44 years on, Jeff Wayne’s the stage show ‘War Of The Worlds’, sounds as fresh and innovative as ever and is a masterpiece of theatrics and music, and despite its age is still as fresh and exciting as it always has been. So it comes as no surprise to find that the current incarnation is incredibly smooth and slick. It also contains more multimedia elements than almost any other show that can ever have been developed for the stage. To say the experience is spectacular barely scratches the surface of an evening that seems to have been put together as if cost were no object.
Wayne conducted the entire show, which featured ‘The Black Smoke Band’ as well as the 36-piece ULLAdubULLA strings ensemble. On stage was a three-ton, menacing Martian fighting machine standing 30 feet tall, which fired a heat ray and surprised the audience by dropping from above, alongside a giant 100-foot wide CGI wall. A 3D holographic screen of Liam Neeson was interactive with cast members throughout. The whole experience was quite extraordinary, full 5.1 surround sound, fire, explosions and even leaves floating down from the ceiling during ‘Forever Autumn’.
The use of H.G.Wells (Callum O’Neill) during the performance, drawing an analogy between the devastation and conquest of Earth by the Martians and the First and Second world wars was clearly powerful. Especially with the current conflict and destruction in Ukraine still very fresh in people’s minds.
The voice of the journalist was Richard Burton in the 2006 stage performance and was taken directly from the original audio recording. The piece now spoken and holographically acted by Liam Neeson has been able to provide sufficient gravitas to carry the role. The overall musical performance and effects take you on a truly captivating and mesmerising journey. I’ve heard it said that Jeff Wayne is somewhat milking his initial success, I don’t think that is the case all the time that people flock to see these amazing performances.
The cast for the show includes ‘Steps’ star Claire Richards as Beth, The Parson’s Wife. She’s joined by former ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ dancer Kevin Clifton as The Artilleryman. Callum O’Neil plays Wells with Nathan James as The Voice of Humanity, ‘Blue’ star Duncan James as Parson Nathaniel, Justin Hayward as The Sung Thoughts of The Journalist and Anna-Marie Wayne as Carrie, The Journalist’s Fiancée.
The Black Smoke Band:
Chris Spedding – guitar
Accy Yeats – drums
Laurie Wisefield – guitar
Neil Angilley – keyboards
Paul Bond – guitar & keyboards
Pete Hunt – bass guitar
Olivia Jageurs – harp & percussion
Thomas Gandey – keyboards
Act One: The Coming of the Martians:
‘The Eve Of The War’
‘Horsell Common And The Heat Ray’
‘The Artilleryman And The Fighting Machine’
Act Two: The Earth Under The Martians:
‘The Red Weed, Part 1’
‘The Spirit of Man’
‘The Red Weed, Part 2’
‘The Artilleryman Returns’
‘Brave New World & Life Begins Again’
‘Dead London, Parts 1 & 2’
‘Epilogue, Part 1: Life Begins Again Reprise’
‘Epilogue, Part 2: NASA’