Jacqueline edeling

Review: Jeff Wayne’s musical version of War of the Worlds

Jeff Wayne’s musical version of War of the Worlds is the stage adaptation of the 1978 album of the same name – which, in turn, is based on the HG Wells novel War of the Worlds (1898). The novel was both popular (never out of print) and influential, spawning half a dozen feature films (including the 2004 film, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Cruise), radio dramas, a record album, various comic book adaptations, a number of television series, and sequels or side stories by other authors.

It was memorably dramatized in a 1939 radio broadcast, directed and performed by Orson Welles, which is said to have caused public panic among listeners who were unaware that the Martian invasion was fictional. The novel even influenced the work of scientists including Robert H. Goddard, who, inspired by the book, helped develop both the liquid-fueled rocket and the multistage rocket, which resulted in the moon landing. of Apollo 11 71 years later! So, yeah, that’s a big deal.

The plot follows a Martian invasion of Earth, in which Martians attempt to turn our planet into a colony. The novel has been variously interpreted as a commentary on the theory of evolution, British imperialism, and generally Victorian superstitions, fears, and prejudices. Wells said the plot grew out of a discussion with his brother Frank about the catastrophic effect of the British on native Tasmanians. What would happen, he wondered, if the Martians did to Britain what the British had done to the Tasmanians?

So, War of the Worlds is much more than a sci-fi epic, it’s a commentary on real life, with themes still relevant in today’s society.

The musical adaptation (or “version”) of the novel by Jeff Wayne was a huge success. In the UK it peaked at number 5 and has sold over 2.7 million copies here since its release. As of 2018, it was the UK’s 32nd best-selling studio album of all time. Worldwide, it has sold approximately 15 million copies.

The concert tour adaptation of the album began in 2006, and all these years later it continues to grow, selling out arenas and entertaining people of all backgrounds and ages. This tour was subtitled The “Life Begins Again” Arena Tour.

Photo: Jay Darcy @ The Mancunion.

It’s hard to explain exactly what this show is about. It started with the orchestra pouring onto the stage, with each member seated to the left of the stage. They were followed by the group, who sat on the right of the stage. After that, we were introduced to the one and only Jeff Wayne, who was standing just off center stage in front of the orchestra.

The show made great use of projections, with stunning visuals and video footage of the incredible main cast, consisting of Moody Blues’ Jeff Haywards (who sang “Forever Autumn” on the soundtrack), Come dance strictlyof Kevin Clifton, Anna-Marie Wayne (daughter of Jeff Wayne), Blue’s Duncan James (also known for Hollyoaks, The circle of celebrities and Famous chef), Nathan James of Inglorious (no relation to Duncan) and Claire Richards of Steps (also known for Popstar at Operastar, celebrity big brother and loose women). Academy Award, BAFTA, 2 x Tony and 3 x Golden Globe nominee Liam Neeson OBE has been featured in pre-recorded videos and 3D holography, while Callum O’Neill has been featured in pre-recorded videos. Quite a cast, right?

The scenography and lighting deserve special praise. There were two screens showcasing cutting-edge CGI and video content. Shortly after the start of the first act, a gigantic, 3-ton, 30-foot-tall, fire-breathing “tripod” (Martian fighting machine) descended from the ceiling onto the stage. He shot veritable rays of heat at the audience. Towards the end of the second act, a bridge fell, which arched over the audience seated in the stalls – one end sat on the stage while the other sat on the floor, behind the audience in the stalls. stalls. It was very impressive. This scene marked an important part of the story, with Clifton singing “Brave New World”, and the bridge made it even more epic.

Kevin also showed his voice in burn the ground earlier this year, but according to Ella’s review, it does much better under Jeff Wayne!

Another highlight came at the start of the first act, when Hayward sang “Forever Autumn” and autumn leaves fell from the sky, covering the audience. It was very immersive. Perhaps my favorite scene – and certainly my favorite song – was at the start of the second act, when Duncan James and Claire Richards finally appeared. They sang “The Spirit of Man”, my favorite song from the musical.

Richards’ role was criminally guaranteed; she died in the same scene she was featured in – yet she arguably stole the show. While the Steps are huge – they’re still selling out arenas all these years later, and I got to see them last year – their cheesy music never let Richards show his true potential, so this is great to see her in a role that makes (she also got to show off her vocal range in Popstar at Operastar).

Anna-Marie Wayne also has a powerful voice. She may be Jeff Wayne’s daughter, but her voice sells.

I found it a little odd that the rest of the main cast was only featured in pre-recorded videos while Clifton sang “Brave New World.” I wondered why they didn’t just bring them on stage to sing with him, although I considered the possibility of them all singing together in a later performance, so they were separated in this one to make their more impactful encounter. .

This “musical” is everything you could want in a show. I mean, it’s basically several different shows rolled into one. Still, it doesn’t seem overdone or exaggerated. It’s a manic masterpiece – intentionally.

The 2022 Tour Jeff Wayne’s musical version of War of the Worlds is now over, but will no doubt be back in a few years – if the Martians don’t get here first…