After almost nine years of touring around the UK and the rest of the world, composer Jeff Wayne's mighty musical version of The War of the Worlds finally comes to London's West End for 2016 in a fresh new theatrical version boasting a 3D hologram of Liam Neeson (Taken).
There have been many iterations of H G Wells’s steam-punk Victorian sci-fi ground-breaker The War of the Worlds. But aside from a radio broadcast narrated by Orson Wells in 1938 (so chilling and plausible audiences genuinely believed the US was under attack) the most famous and enduring must surely be Jeff Wayne’s mighty prog rock concept album of 1978.
The double album of ‘symphonic rock’, with starry contributions from Richard Burton, David Essex, Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy and actress Julie Covington, went on to become 39th best-selling album of all time in the UK.
It was subsequently adapted for the stage in amateur productions all over the world, but it wasn’t until 2006 that Wayne himself took the album on tour with his immersive production. ‘I’d been asked to do many live concert rendition but that didn’t excite me,’ he told Culture Whisper. ‘Theatre is as compelling as it gets and TWOTW has been a living work which has developed over time with new technology and effects.’
There's no denying the impressive set design in this adaptation. Gigantic metallic monsters roam the stage, and real fire that leaps up and explodes with the force of the Martian's fire lazers. But inspire of this, War of the Worlds at the Dominion Theatre is something of a damp squib, for those with an interest Wayne's music, but not up to the usual standards of the West End.
The live band, conducted by Wayne himself, shakes the foundations of the theatre with its frantic, war-mongering drumbeat and catchy chorus lines. But the story, which feels as though it has been crammed untidily around the songs, involves world domination, a martian invasion and mass death - and is still painfully dull.
The problem is that the characters are one-dimensional at best, and the relationships between them are hurried and unconvincing. No matter how dramatic and exciting the events on stage, how dazzling the set design and well loved the music is, none of it matters when there is no one to invest in. Even Liam Neeson's moving projection is so characterless, the best that can be said is sometimes he's a bit panicked.
Music lovers who can sit back and enjoy the music, will take pleasure in this live performance of Wayne's hits. Everyone else should stay at home and read the book.
|What||Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds the Musical Review, Dominion Theatre|
|Where||Dominion Theatre, 268-269 Tottenham Court Rd, London, W1T 7AQ | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Tottenham Court Road (underground)|
08 Feb 16 – 09 Apr 16, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
|Price||£31 - £75.75|
|Website||Click here to book via Ticket Master|