…are a million to one he said.
So last night I went to watch Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds (the musical adaptation of H.G Wells novel) at the cinema with one of my friends. We wanted to go and see it live, but didn’t manage to get tickets. Might as well go for the next best thing!
I was really unsure of what to expect. I own the New Generation album which is absolutely stunning, but I knew that there was a complete cast change for the live performances.
The show itself was a mixture between on screen animation depicting a visual of the aliens attacking Earth alongside the music and lyrics that helped to tell the story. They also had a giant figure of one of the aliens on stage that moved and shot beams of light and fire on to the stage. What I enjoyed was how the animations on screen weren’t overly high-tech, so as not to distract you completely from what was happening on stage, but still kept you engaged and fit in perfectly during the intensity of the music. I especially loved the scenes with Carrie, the Journalist’s fiancee. Anna-Marie Wayne played her beautifully.
Liam Neeson, as the voice of The Journalist, was of course the star attraction of the show. Despite not physically being there, he managed to take over the stage. His gravely voice begun our tale…
The Journalist: No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of space.
The technology that was used was incredible. Not only was he projected on a screen to the side of the stage, they also had a screen placed on the stage during certain scenes, in which he was stood up, interacting with the other characters. During one scene he handed the Artilleryman a drink, and when he turned around he had a physical drink in his hand! It was an absolutely stunning piece of work. Me and my friend couldn’t help but laugh at how they had him bow to the audience at the end with the rest of the cast.
Unlike the album, the sung thoughts of the Journalist were performed by Marti Pellow (Of Wet Wet Wet, for those who didn’t know). I enjoyed his performance, don’t get me wrong. However, I think having heard Gary Barlow on The New Generation album, I was almost underwhelmed. His voice didn’t seem to have the same impact, especially during certain parts of ‘Forever Autumn’ where the Journalist is singing about his despair of losing Carrie, his fiancee. The being said, he was still very enjoyable to watch.
Ricky Wilson as the Artilleryman was hilarious. I was really looking forward to hearing him live, being one of the only ones on The New Generation Soundtrack. But his acting was just superb. He played the part with the perfect amount of humour, but still managed to have the audience feel sympathy for him. What really topped it off was how he just seemed to be having fun every minute he was on stage. His performance of Brave New World was just as energetic as it was on the album, with Ricky running up and down stage wearing these absolutely insane looking goggles and climbing on a jungle-gym made of ladders and old looking cogs.
The scenes between Jason Donovan as Parson Nathaniel and Kerry Ellis as Beth, his wife, were beautifully put together. I really enjoyed these pieces as performed by Maverick Sabre and Joss Stone on the album, would probably say that The Spirit of Man and The Red Weed (Part 2) are my favourite songs and so I was unsure of how I would feel about their performance. Believe me when I say I could not have picked two better performers. Jason Donovan was just incredible, highlighting the Parsons mental state and the destruction of religion. Kerry Ellis was absolutely stunning. You really felt a great deal of sympathy for Beth, watching her husbands mental state diminish, whilst still trying to be the strong one, ultimately risking her own life and proving her undying love for her husband when he didn’t believe.
Beth: There must be something worth living for
Parson: No, there is nothing!
Beth: There must be something worth trying for
Parson: I don’t believe it’s so
The Spirit of Man – Parson Nathaniel and Beth
Jeff Wayne. What is there to be said about this man? He doesn’t just conduct the music, he feels it with his entire body. I admit, I did chuckle a few times as he pulled out some stellar ‘Dad dance’ moves. But this man is an absolute genius. The atmosphere that is created by his music is so intense. And for a 69 year old, the man certainly has some stamina! To stand on a podium for almost 2 hours straight and to still have the same energy and enthusiasm by the end of it is a mean feat in itself!
Of course I can’t leave it without mentioning the amazing band. They were split in to two sections. A string orchestra, ULLAdubULLA, to the right and The Black Smoke Band to the left. The string orchestra were absolutely fantastic, setting the fast paced intensity from the get-go. The Black Smoke Band helped to bring to life the Martians and produced the sound effects for the lasers etc. What really stood out was that they were all dressed the part, the keyboard player particularly had a really awesome hat that me and my friend wanted to steal.
I had a really good time and thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. Hopefully the performance will be released on DVD soon to allow the whole world to appreciate it in all it’s glory. So if you’ve never before heard of the stage show, go and check out the album for sure. Believe me, it’s not one to be missed.