Back in May, my eldest daughter, Laura, contacted me to see if I was interested in seeing the tour of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds. I’ve been a fan of the musical since 1989, when I got to play my landladies vinyl copy of it. I later bought it on CD and, since then, I’ve managed to get Laura hooked too.
Laura wanted to go to the tour and it was due to be in Nottingham, near to me, in December. Would I buy her a ticket as a Christmas present? Of course.
Last Friday was the day (or rather night) of the concert and I went to it knowing nothing of what to expect. I really had no idea.
I knew in advance some of the stars performing – a hologram of Liam Neeson and, on stage, Jason Donovan, Carrie Hope Fletcher and Newton Faulkner. But that was about it.
It was at the Motorpoint Arena, a rather impressive ice skating arena during the day and, for special events, covered over and used for concerts and events. Earlier this year I went to a Comic Con at the same place.
We took a tram there – it’s a 10 minute drive to the tram stop and then 30 minutes on the tram itself. For “events” it costs just £2 each for a return tram ticket, which is excellent value.
Once there, and after a quick toilet stop, we took our seats. We’d got tiered seats on the left-hand side – we were about a third of the way back, which is near enough to have a good view across. Looking around, they were possibly some of the best seats that we could have chosen.
This tour is to celebrate the fact that it’s been 40 years since its original release. Here’s the full cast…
- Liam Neeson (via holography) – The Jouranlist
- Jason Donovan – Parson Nathaniel
- Carrie Hope Fletcher – Beth
- Adam Garcia – The Artilleryman
- Newton Faulkner – Sung Thoughts of the Journalist
- Nathan James – The Voice of Humanity
- Anna-Marie Wayne – Carrie (the Journalist’s Fiancee)
In addition there is 9-piece band (named the Black Smoke Band) and 36-piece string orchestra. The band includes the legendary guitarist Herbie Flowers.
The set looked great but, in its initial state it gives little away.
When it got to 8pm, it started, and out came the band, orchestra and, much to my surprise, the conductor – Jeff Wayne himself (I was very excited at this point). The opening of Eve of the War, with that 36 piece orchestra was… amazing. I can’t think of any other words – it honestly left me speechless.
The holographic image of Liam Neeson was done very well – do you see those 2 lamp-posts on the stage? The floor beneath them would drop away and a horizontal bar would move up stretching, near the top of the two posts – this bar had under it a near-invisible screen, with the hologram projected from behind and underneath (hence the sinking floor). I also liked the interactivity between the hologram and the performers – there was a fight and even a point at which The Journalist passed a cup to the Artilleryman.
Across the back of the stage was a huge projected image, with 2 smaller screens either side – Liam Neeson, when not in holographic form, was often projected onto these side screens.
This video, on the show’s Facebook page, shows you some of the imagery that was shown on this rear screen…
Although Liam Neeson played The Journalist, his singing voice was provided by Newton Faulkner. He would come on and general stand around, leaving the acting to his holographic counterpart. Which was probably wise – Faulkner looked a little wooden. But he was here for his voice and, thankfully, that didn’t disappoint.
My favourite song in the show is Forever Autumn and he did is justice, despite it being a slightly revised version (I will always prefer the original).
The Parson and his wife were played by Jason Donovan and Carrie Hope-Fletcher. I thought Jason’s voice was one of the weaker ones but he impressed Laura enough to be her favourite (although she’s always liked the character in general).
Carrie was good but, again, didn’t blow me away.
Brave New World is probably my second favourite track and Adam Garcia (who I didn’t know before this) sung it brilliantly – he was very impressive in the role.
In the last photo you’ll see they dropped a huge walkway across the audience for him to walk across. The previous photo shows him on the little island that was in the middle of the audience – he used the gangway to get across to it. However, both he and the parson also made use of moving through the audience too at various points of the show.
The Voice of the People
Again, Nathan James is somebody who I didn’t know before the show. Having the look of someone who likes to play at being a Warlock at the weekend, his on-stage moves (lots of hand-grasping) were un-intentionally (I think) amusing.
But his voice – oh, his voice – brought a level of gravelly rock that was missing even from the original recording. At the end he got one of the loudest applauses and rightly so.
The Martian Ship
One of the outstanding parts of the show was a very large martian ship that could be lowered to tower above the stage. It moved around and could spit fire (right across the top of the audience), shoot lasers and even explode.
Here are a few pictures of it in use…
There was a 2 minute interval after about an hour and then the show finished around 10:20pm. Not surprisingly, they got a standing ovation.
It was a truly fantastic show – hard to believe it was in Nottingham for just one night! If you like the music and get a chance to see this tour, I’d highly recommend it.
There was the expected mass rush of people to the tram stops, not helped by the fact that the estimated arrival times for them was all over the place (sometimes stopping, going back up and then going totally blank). Just as I was about to give up and grab an Uber, one turns up – it was a squeeze and we had to stand the whole way back.
Laura took a few videos during the show and, from them, I created this little compilation…