EVENT REVIEW: JEFF WAYNE’S MUSICAL VERSION OF THE WAR OF THE WORLDS - THE FINAL ARENA TOUR / BIRMINGHAM LG ARENA DECEMBER 5TH 2014
The War of the Worlds musical proved to be a visually spectacular show, making the audience feel as though they were in the midst of a Martian attack. Before the show started there was the perspective of two wasp-like eyes projected on the screen, which showed members of the audience through them, this was a good effect as it made you feel like you were being watched by the Martians, as they planned their attack.
It gave a glimpse into why Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre of the Air radio version of the story, which was presented as an on-going news report and scared the crap of US listeners when it was broadcast on Halloween’s Eve, way back in 1938. The story has the eternal theme of invasion and triggers our primal fear of the unknown, a combination that has proved to be a success in all forms of media from the original book, films, video games and Jeff Wayne’s re-imagining of it as a musical.
This show was centred largely on the live orchestra accompanied by onscreen film and visuals that gave a cinematic feel to the musical, unlike anything we have seen before. The majority of the acting took place within the filmed parts, which was a little disappointing because one loses some of the authenticity of a typical play. However, it added a supernatural element to the musical and the onstage actors interacted with the on-screen actors at some points, as well as singing live on stage.
A variety of exciting visual effects were used, keeping you constantly on the edge of your seat, excitedly wondering what was going to happen next; such as real fire and explosions on stage during the Martian attack, leaves falling from the ceiling, strobe lighting, laser beams and even a life-size metal Martian which made several appearances, threateningly spitting flames.
For anyone who isn’t usually interested in sci-fi, this made it very interesting to watch as there was always something holding the attention. The only issue with this is, with so many things happening at once, you could only focus on one thing and completely miss another, but it still completely immersed the audience into the story.
Callum O‘Neill, playing H.G. Wells, opened the musical with a bit of background information on why he wrote the book and what it was about, which was helpful for anybody that hasn’t read or seen War of the Worlds before, bringing you into the story. The acting and singing was impressive, topped by the catchy songs that made the original album such a hit in 1978, and which underscore the whole production and add an additional layer of emotional involvement for the audience.
Overall, it was a great performance and everyone left joyously having survived the Martian invasion. Highly recommended to anyone, even if they aren’t usually into the sci-fi genre as it will still be sure to have you saying ‘wow’ at the end of it.