Stage is set for War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds
The War of the Worlds
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It’s been a blockbuster film, a radio broadcast, a musical score and an animated TV series – and now it’s embarking on its final UK arena tour.

The War of the Worlds is known across the globe as one of the most visionary and thought provoking sci-fi tales, creating a legacy that has spanned over a century.

Taking that legacy and running with it is Jeff Wayne, creator of the musical version of HG Wells’ 1898 work of science fiction.

Wayne said that “never in a million years” did he expect to be taking his 1978 score on a sell out tour of UK arenas – let along for the sixth time – when I caught up with him last week.

The American born musician, who now lives in Hertfordshire, said it was HG Wells’ book that first got him hooked, rather than Orson Welles’ 1938 adaptation that tricked many people into thinking it was a real life attack when it was broadcast on the radio.

“What I fell in love with was a dark Victorian tale of an alien force landing in Surrey,” he said.

“From a terror factor point of view, what would we have had to defend ourselves with?

“HG Wells created something called black dust, which we now know is nothing more than chemical warfare.

“It’s quite visionary. The heart of the story was that Wells was taking a pop at the expanding British Empire, which I was critical of as I’m sure many people were.

“Wells had a great talent for writing a story that’s adventurous and concepts that were visionary. It’s not a shoot ‘em up, knock ‘em down science fiction story - his science was excellent - it’s reached people all over the world.”

Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds – Alive on Stage! will play out in arenas across the UK in November and December.

The show will again feature a stellar cast with Jeff Wayne returning to the podium to conduct the nine piece Black Smoke Band and 36-piece ULLAdubULLA Strings.

Shayne Ward has been confirmed as the final cast member and will play the Artilleryman alongside Joseph Whelan who performs the role of The Voice of Humanity, Westlife’s Brian McFadden as The Sung Thoughts of The Journalist, Jason Donovan who reprises his role as Parson Nathaniel and Carrie Hope Fletcher who plays Beth, Parson Nathaniel’s Wife.

Liam Neeson’s 3D holographic performance as The Journalist also returns with enhanced technology.

Wayne said: “Since we started we’ve had nothing but a fantastic reception from the media, and nothing but sell out shows. When we see people up on their feet cheering, that’s when we know it’s all been worth it. With every production I’ve added something.

“I’ve never considered the easier route, which would be to just pull it back out of the box and put it back on the stage. It’s expanded from the story point of view and we’ve added special effects, and this production has a whole range of new ingredients.

“You will see HG Wells on stage for the first time at three different ages.

“I went back and revisited and and now know a lot about him, I got to know some of his family, but I did want to make sure that the facts were accurate, for our audiences.

“Not in a million years did I think we’d be doing arena tours when I first created the score. I didn’t even know it would get a commercial release.

“The record company had a 30 day option period to decide that, but they wanted another 30 days after that, so it was pretty tense.

“Just to know it had a result was enough, when they finally made a decision it was a great feeling.”

Wayne said he started working on the forthcoming production in June 2013.

He said: “There’s a lot of new Computer Generated Images (CGI), and I’ve composed a new song called Life Begins Again which appears twice.

“It’s performed by all the characters, and I’m very excited to see how it works.

Up until the tour in 2012, we’ve always recorded with Richard Burton, who had a total of 74 sequences.

About half of what Richard recorded naver made it onto the album, so I made the decision to bring some of it back to life.

“Liam Neeson has now taken over from Richard Burton and he has 90 sequences.

“If people are coming to see our arena tour for the first time, they will learn that HG Wells opened a door into the future, and the audience are on an adventure that’s far away from how England was.

“I hope that it challenges them about the rights and wrongs of invasion, but its main goal is to entertain.”

The show comes to Liverpool in November 28 and Manchester on November 30. For tickets visit thewaroftheworlds.com/tickets.