Previewed 8 February 2016, Opened 17 February 2016, Closed 30 April 2016 at the Dominion Theatre in London
Jeff Wayne's The War of the Worlds in London based on the classic HG Wells science fiction story.
Following eight years of acclaimed arena tours, this musical production has now been reimagined and is brought to spectacular theatrical life for its world stage premiere here at the Dominion in the heart of London's West End. Conducted on stage by Jeff Wayne this production features new music, a star cast along with a full supporting company of performers and, in 3D holography Liam Neeson as 'The Narrator'.
The live stage cast features David Essex as 'The Voice Of Humanity', Jimmy Nail as 'Parson Nathaniel', Daniel Bedingfield as 'The Artilleryman', Heidi Range as 'Beth', Michael Praed as 'The Journalist' and Madalena Alberto as 'Carrie'. Liam Neeson appears on screen only as a 3D holograph. Adapted from the HG Well's novel by Dorren Wayne with music by Jeff Wayne, lyrics by Jeff Wayne, Gary Osborne and Paul Vigrass and directed for the stage by Bob Tomson.
David Essex played the role of 'The Artilleryman' on the original 1978 double album. His recent London theatre credits include All the Fun of the Fair (Garrick Theatre 2010). Michael Praed's West End credits include the musicals Beautiful and Damned (Lyric Theatre 2004) and Contact (Queen's Theatre 2002). Madalena Alberto's theatre credits includes the title role of 'Eva Peron' in the musical Evita (Dominion Theatre 2014).
When this production opened here at the Dominion Theatre in February 2016, Henry Hitchings in The London Evening Standard highlighted that, although "it’s a show of undeniable pomp, packed with blinding lights, bursts of flame and thunderous sound... there's no real menace in the storytelling... Jeff Wayne conducts with relentless energy and is flanked by 22 musicians who do justice to his score. Despite a few transfixing moments, this misconceived hybrid of concert and theatrical spectacle feels overblown and undercooked." Mark Lawson in The Guardian said that "for all the digital and industrial bombast of the new staging, the hero of the evening is HG Wells' prose, describing with economical selection of terrible details the ruin of the UK... The show is often visually spectacular – and its two big numbers reliably deliver – but the weakness of the venture is that it seems likely to make many theatregoers impatient to experience the novel or the Jeff Wayne recording instead." Patrick Marmion in The Daily Mail thought that "the result falls somewhere between naff stadium rock and a very silly B-Movie, as a ramp of nubile violinists duel with ageing blokes on guitar... It is melodrama on steroids, kitsch on stilts. Some will love that — but, for me, armageddon out of here!" Tim Auld in The Daily Telegraph explained that "though Jeff Wayne apparently intended it to become a full stage musical, The War of the Worlds truly made its mark as a listen-at-home album. The director, Bob Tomson struggles to create human drama in a script that's better imagined than staged." Ian Shuttleworth in The Financial Times wrote that "director Bob Tomson seems to concentrate on getting his actors on and offstage while looking vaguely as if they’re experiencing the emotions in Gary Osborne’s lyrics, secondary though they often are to Jeff Wayne's bombastic adult oriented rock score... The whole stupefyingly self-regarding affair is almost certainly the worst West End show I have seen in the current decade." Ann Treneman in The Times wasn't impressed: "It would be tempting to say that this was pastiche retro, not sci-fi but sci-faux, but, actually, I think it's more rip-off. Bob Tomson directs the madness, which includes a risible red weed invasion expressed by dancers writhing in costumes that look like crimson dreadlocks." Holly Williams in The Independent praised how "Jeff Wayne's music is properly exhilarating, performed live onstage by a band with tasty guitar skills. On a dramatic level, the show is frequently accidentally hilarious. There's potential for it to become a kitsch cult classic, so-bad-it's-delicious. But there's still a lot that's just bad-bad." Neil Norman in The Daily Express commented that "the music is well produced with 22 musicians on stage and a powerfully impressive rock band... and a pre-recorded Liam Neeson maintains a straight face as the on-screen narrator while performers scuttle beneath."
"For superfans, this pummelling show undoubtedly hits the spot. For the rest of us? It's a pimped-up concert production, the stage dominated by the band and Jeff Wayne himself conducting the bombastic dad anthems and psychedelic noodlings. Director Bob Tomson harnesses whizzy video from Stufish, live flame, scampering dancers and puppets - including a Martian grumpily twitching its tentacles... A perturbed hologram of Liam Neeson narrates, with Michael Praed as his onstage avatar, Daniel Bedingfield as a yelping soldier in military frogging, and David Essex a husky survivor from the original cast." The Sunday Times
"Forty years and 15 million albums ago Wayne composed a musical version of HG Wells's classic science fiction novel, in which extraterrestrials invade the Earth, only to be defeated by its oldest and most populous organism: bacteria. Aided by director Bob Tomson, choreographer Liam Steel and a hugely talented design team Wayne has recreated the album for the stage. The problem is that this is not a rock opera in the vein of Tommy, Quadrophenia or even Evita... The drama may be tenuous and the acting scrappy but the special effects are spectacular. Whether extending a slimy tentacle or encased in a metallic tripod, the Martians are thrillingly realised. The non-stop video projections create a dizzying sense of a disintegrating world. But the brilliance of the presentation cannot conceal the thinness of the content." The Sunday Express
"Jeff Wayne’s 1978 concept album, based on H G Wells' novel, has been touring arena venues for ten years. Now at last it gets a West End musical staging – and it's massive. There's a banked string section of svelte young female violinists, ace guitarist Chris Spedding leading the thundering rock section, a chorus of dancers and an orchestra conducted with grooving hips by Jeff Wayne himself... But it's a very mixed cast and everyone looks a bit baffled... It's a mad and truly epic evening, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the people of Surrey being crisped by Martian death rays, to the bombastic sound of anthemic Seventies rock." The Mail on Sunday
"There is nothing like it anywhere else on the London stage. But that's probably because this musicalised version of Jeff Wayne's work — first released as a world-conquering double album in 1978 — is a hybrid of just about every form of entertainment going. It is cinema in the sense that projections of Liam Neeson pop up all over the shop. Between the star's action movies, he has somehow found time to play, in pre-filmed sequences, the narrator and journalist of HG Wells' classic story. And although Neeson may not be in the building, he's as much a part of this spectacle as any of the live cast, which includes 1980s stars David Essex and Jimmy Nail in cameo roles, who scurry around like ants in Victorian dress under huge video projections of death-ray-spewing Martian killing machines. But it's also a concert in the sense that Wayne himself conducts a 22-piece on-stage orchestra — a combination of an all-female strings ensemble and the trad-rock Black Smoke Band. There's even a bit of ballet as the chorus line evokes the Martian reed — which makes Japanese knotweed look as benign as a pot of daffs — by writhing around the stage, while on-screen the red menace soreads over England's green and pleasant land. This show may not be brilliant at any one of these forms, but every stop has been pulled to come up with an entertaining show. Wayne's score is as sweet and infectious as it ever was and there is even a real-life (pretend) Martian machine which stalks the stage spitting real fire. In the end you're kind of bludgeoned into respecting the sheer effort of it all." The London Mero
The live stage show The War of the Worlds in London at the Dominion Theatre previewed from 8 February 2016, opened on 17 February 2016 and closed on 30 April 2016.