Musical space war
The return of the Martians
By Martin Hutchinson
NO-ONE would have believed that, in 2015, after a sixth sell-out UK tour, when Jeff Wayne said that that was the final ‘War Of The Worlds’ tour, that he’d be back.
“It was genuinely thought to be the last.” Jeff said. “We had just signed to do a West End run and for that, the show had to be scaled down a bit and re-imagin-
- It was a case of ‘honey, I shrunk the Martians’.
“Then the promoters reminded me that 2018 was the 40th anniversary of the original album, and since I might not be around for the 50th (Jeff will be 85 then), I didn’t take a lot of convincing to take it on the road again.”
Jeff Wayne has been creating hits for decades now. He was the writer/producer behind David Essex’s first hits and in 1978 released his musical version of the HG Wells novel ‘The War Of The Worlds’.
Starring Richard Burton, Justin Hayward, David Essex, Julie Covington and Phil Lynott, the spectacular double-album – featuring iconic artwork and classic songs like Forever Autumn, Thunderchild and The Spirit Of Man – proved a massive hit.
In 2006, Jeff realised his ambition of recreating the album in a live setting. With an orchestra, which he conducted, a band – and such luminaries as Russell Watson, Jason Donovan, and Rhyddian joining Justin Hayward in bringing the story to life.
The live version featured a 3D version of Richard Burton as narrator and ground-breaking effects such as a giant Martian fighting machine which stood menacingly over the stage and took an active part in the show.
More tours followed, each more spectacular than the last, as technology enabled more effects, and with ever-changing casts – although Justin Hayward was ever-present.
In 2012, Jeff re-imagined the original album with a new cast and extra songs, and with Liam Neeson taking over the Richard Burton role. This ‘New Generation’ toured in 2012 and 2014, with Liam appearing as a 3D hologram and interacting with the other players. But, having repelled the Martians in all those tours, they are about to attack again.
“There will be more audience involvement this time with a new song and other surprises.”
The iconic three-tonne, 35-foot tall fighting machine will be firing heat rays at the audience, and the new show features the incineration of a cast member on stage! The video wall is bigger, 100-feet wide and showing two hours of cutting edge CGI.
But the biggest visual change is the bridge that the Artilleryman, in this tour played by West End star Adam Garcia, performs Brave New World on.
Jeff said: “The bridge will actually go over the audience – in some cases right to the back of the hall. Those underneath it will get a great perspective of Brave New World. There are new performance areas and the whole look is quite dynamically different.
“We are always changing little bits, we keep adding to it, and this new version is an ideal mix of the original show and the ‘new generation’.”
As well as Liam (in holography) and Adam Garcia, Jeff has a strong cast for the tour with singer/songwriter Newton Faulkner as ‘The Sung Thoughts of The Journalist’ (the Justin’s role), West End star Carrie Hope Fletcher as Beth, the Parson’s wife, and Jason Donovan as Parson Nathaniel. Inglorious frontman Nathan James plays ‘The Voice of Humanity’ and performs the great song Thunderchild.
Jeff’s daughter, Anna-Marie Wayne, returns to play Carrie – the Journalist’s fiancée.
With such a heavy reliance on technology, Jeff only foresees one major problem with the new show.
“Yeah, if the bridge doesn’t work. But seriously, we’ve been fairly blessed in the 12 years of Arena shows. The worst thing that went wrong was just once. About half an hour into the show, the Fighting Machine got caught in its own wiring and it was just dangling there skew-whiff. I’m looking up at it and having to keep playing, but nobody said anything.”
Jeff has done many things in his career, but it will be for ‘The War Of The Worlds’ for which he is remembered most, and I wondered if it was becoming a bit of a millstone as it doesn’t seem to want to lie down.
“Oh no, I could never feel anything but pride and appreciation about it. And I wasn’t sure at the time if it would get released. Even though I was a CBS writer and producer, I didn’t have a clause in my contract about a release. Once I submitted the finished album I had to wait 30 days before I heard that they would release it.
“Then they came back to me saying things like; ‘It’s one of the most unique recordings we’ve ever heard. It’s so unique that we don’t know if it has an audience’. And they made me wait another 30 days!”
The original album sold more than 15 million copies, hitting No.1 in 11 countries and spent more than 330 weeks in the UK album charts, and numerous awards, including two Ivor Novello Awards and the US Best Recording in Science Fiction and Fantasy (the judges included Alfred Hitchcock, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg)
With the ‘New Generation’ recording, and the live shows, Jeff’s vision of a true musical version of the classic HG Wells novel has been realised – and who’s to say that we won’t – in 2028 – be celebrating it’s Golden Anniversary.
Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War Of The Worlds is on tour in the UK from November 30 to December 17.
Will the Earth belong to the Martians? Or will we fight them off again? Get your tickets and find out.