Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds – Bournemouth International Centre – 10 December

Review by Liz Turner

To put it simply – everything you’ve ever read about Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of The World’s  is true. It is absolutely magnificent and I now seriously regret never having seen it until now.
The convoy of trucks which rolled into Bournemouth as part of this final arena tour has only a few more stops to make before this musical phenomenon will see its last performance.

And what a journey it’s been. Jeff Wayne’s double album was originally released by CBS Records in 1978. It has 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 (to date) plus achieving two International hit singles – ‘Forever Autumn’ and ‘The Eve of The War’. The album has also been number 1 in 11 countries around the world and Top 10 in 22.

This is the sixth UK arena tour and is the most ambitious production yet. It features Liam Neeson in 3D holography, Jason Donovan as Parson Nathaniel, Westlife’s Brian McFadden as The Sung Thoughts of The Journalist, Shayne Ward as the  Artilleryman, Les Miserables’ Carrie Hope Fletcher as Beth, Parson Nathaniel’s Wife, Joseph Whelan, as The Voice of Humanity, the 36-piece ULLAdubULLA Strings and the 9-piece Black Smoke Band. And there conducting the show with boundless energy is Jeff Wayne.

The show’s special effects are truly remarkable. There’s a 3-tonne 35-foot tall Martian Fighting Machine firing real flames, a 100 foot wide “animation wall” with two hours of cutting edge CGI, the sound surrounds you and the lighting effects are breathtaking leaving the audience totally immersed in the experience.

The special effects could easily have overshadowed the music but stunning performances from the six strong cast ensure that the whole spectacular is one I’ll certainly never forget.

However technology is not always necessary to move the audience – the simple touch of leaves falling during ‘Forever Autumn’ provoked as much emotion as the deadly heat ray flames fired over the auditorium.

There’s also a new dimension to this tour. Jeff Wayne has brought HG Wells, the author of The War of The Worlds, to life and he appears aged 33, 53 and 79 – spanning the end of the 19th century and two subsequent World Wars.

Brilliantly played by Scottish actor Callum O’Neill, he is transformed into the author by Oscar, BAFTA and Emmy Award winner Mark Coulier, creative director of one of Europe’s leading make-up effects companies, and then aged with prosthetics as the show progresses. Really incredible.

And as for it being the last tour Jeff Wayne has hinted this will not be the last we hear of The War of the Worlds.

He said: “Bringing The War of The Worlds to life in many of the world’s finest arenas has been the most amazing experience, both musically and technologically. However, the time is right to take The War of The Worlds in new directions after the 2014 tour.  All I can say for the future of TWOTW is – Watch this space!”
The BIC has a matinee today (Thursday 11) and en evening performance. If there are any tickets left grab one and experience the legend!


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