I’ll admit, I’m a recent convert to Jeff Wayne’s masterpiece, having missed this growing up, and then later upon seeing the Hollywood film, not really being inspired to track back and read HG Wells’ classic or listen to the album. However, a chance mention on the Vitriola Music podcast at Christmas – where Robin Ince led a choir of bemused audience members in a rendition of ‘Spirit of Man‘ – piqued my interest enough to lead me to listen to the album, and head along to the live show.
< Note: Do have a listen to the Vitriola Music podcast. Robin co-hosts with fellow angry man Michael Legge, as they discuss up-and-coming bands, classic records, and share random stories between themselves. >
So after having heard the album and being inspired to head out to the live show, I still had no real idea what to expect. I understood there was to be a live band – a rather stunning mix of string orchestra and rock band, but as to what degree the show was a sung-through concert or full theatre production I had no clue.
It turned out to be a glorious mixture of both. An absolute delightful audio-visual experience. Background projections took us to the many geographical locations with ease, and filmed sequences projected behind and amongst the onstage action helped magnify large battle scenes. The films, live action, puppetry and special effect set pieces combined to great effect to amplify the dramatic moments,and the energy emanating from the live band placed central stage really drove the show from start to finish.
Be warned that the show’s special effects such as strobe lighting may have adverse affects on some people, so do check with the theatre beforehand. But if you are fine with that, then the lighting and pyrotechnics add such a thrill to proceedings.
It was a superb ensemble cast – Michael Praed and a filmed Liam Neeson shared the role of the protagonist, the Journalist. The story shifted between his older self recalling his diaries (Neeson) and the live action portrayal of the Martian invasion (Praed). Madalena Alberto as Praed’s wife had little stage time, but shone during those moments nonetheless.
David Essex as the voice of humanity was superb in his role, and notable mention to Jimmy Nail and Heidi Range as the Pastor and his wife Beth. Nail’s descent into madness at the invasion and his wife’s pleas to return reason to him was particularly captivating.
However, it has to be said, the man who won it for me on the night was Si Shorten. Stepping in for an absent Daniel Beddingfield, Si took the role of Artilleryman and absolutely wowed the audience with his vocals, particularly during ‘Brave New World’. I’ve never had the opportunity to see Si taking on some of the larger roles he has understudied for – including Jean Valjean and the Phantom – but I’d seen him perform various ensemble roles at Les Misérables and he has such an incredibly powerful voice, he deserves more recognition for his work. It looks like he has stepped up on a number of occasions for this limited run, so the chances of seeing him perform are high. Of course, do check with the cast listings on the day.
Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds is playing at the Dominion Theatre throughout March and April.