The Martians are coming... and this time they really are turning up the heat for one last attack on the senses, writes Graham Walker.
A scary 35-foot, three tonne Martian Fighting Machine will fire real flames over the audience when Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds makes its last tour of UK arenas.
And one cast member, plus the entire set, will be incinerated in front of the audience.
The amazing out-of-this spectacle doesn’t stop there.
Adding a new dimension to the final arena tour and marking a spectacular finale, HG Wells, the author of The War of The Worlds, is being brought back to life in sight and sound.
The backdrop is a huge 100 foot wide animation wall, which will features two hours of cutting edge CGI, while a 3D hologram of Hollywood star Liam Neeson, replacing original album cast member Richard Burton as the journalist narrator, will interact on stage with the real life star-studded cast.
They include Jason Donovan as Parson Nathaniel, Westlife’s Brian McFadden as The Sung Thoughts of The Journalist, X Factor 2005 winner Shayne Ward as the Artilleryman, Les Miserables’ Carrie Hope Fletcher as Beth, Parson Nathaniel’s Wife and X Factor 2013’s Joseph Whelan, as The Voice of Humanity.
All that, acted out and sung in front of a 36-piece ULLAdubULLA Strings and nine-piece Black Smoke Band, conducted by the man himself, Jeff Wayne.
His original 1978 concept album, on which the production is based, enjoyed huge success and critical acclaim across the globe with over 15 million records sold and spending over 330 weeks in the UK Album Charts. It resulted in two world-wide monster hit singles – Forever Autumn and The Eve of The War.
But, after eight and a half years on and off the road, it begins its final UK arena tour at Sheffield Motorpoint Arena on November 27.
In an exclusive interview – hear it on line – 71-year-old Wayne explained it’s far from the end.
He’s been planning a film, a TV series and other outlets to evolve his Musical Version of the War of the Worlds. What he has got planned is as top secret as a visit to Area 51.
“I’ll be announcing early next year our next direction for The War Of The Worlds. It’s both exciting and emotional to know this will be the last time I get up on stage and conduct my own work,” he said.
“It’s a wonderful privilege to be able to conduct your own music, your own show. And I have the best seat in the house.
“It’s a true marriage between live performance and technology. The set goes around the cast, over them and even over the audience, with special effects and illusions that further the story.
“Our fighting machine’s original heat ray was laser technology and lighting, where now it’s divided into like a fork, with five different flames – real flames that go right out over the heads of the audience. And for us on stage we really know why its first name is heat.
“Not only the character himself but the entire set gets incinerated. And nobody has figured out how we do it.
“I hope nobody gets truly scared and we’ve seen parents bringing children as young as seven years old. They’ve heard more about the spectacle of the show rather than its history of a musical work.
On replacing Richard Burton’s famous voice, he says: “It was a natural evolution to go with Liam, when I knew I was expanding the story. Richard passed away in 1984. His performance was finite. I couldn’t give him a call and get him back in the studio and expand the performance he did.
“That had a bit of wrenching quality in truth. But the original album exists. It was a thrill to work with Liam. He has a beautiful voice. A different voice to Richard. A big bottom end to his voice. A mellifluous quality.”
X Factor star Shayne Ward, also hear his full chat on line, said “I’m very excited to be part of this amazing production.
“I’ve never seen it live. But I was given the DVD by Jeff Wayne and I was blown away by that. I’m chuffed to say I’m starring in a show with Liam Neeson.
“I took a break from my music but I’m back making my new album – it’s a work in progress.
“The X Factor was a blessing. I had a fantastic time. It’s 10 years next year. Some might say a curse, but definitely a blessing for me. But I’ve been in the West End and you will definitely be seeing me back on stage in another role in future.”