It is fair to say that there are very few people who have not heard of the story The War of the Worlds. Whether this knowledge comes from the original 1898 source material or even from Hollywood movies, The War of the Worlds is a classic story which has become ingrained within our minds for over a hundred years.
For an entire generation, uttering the title The War of the Worlds also ushers in memories of listening to a groundbreaking album by musician Jeff Wayne, which described an alien invasion through the use of music and lyrics. The album featured an all-star cast, including David Essex, Justin Hayward, Phil Lynott and perhaps most famously, Richard Burton - as the narrator - and took the music world by storm.
Many people will have grown up listening to Wayne's album, or will at least be familiar with tracks such as The Eve of War and Forever Autumn, whilst others will have seen the stage show which started touring in 2006. To date (Dec 2012), the album has spent over 330 weeks in the UK chart, has reached No. 1 in 11 countries and has sold more than 15 million copies, which isn't bad going for an album based on an already hugely successful novel.
However in 2012 an all new generation of artists came together - including national treasure Gary Barlow - to provide fresh recordings for the award-winning masterpiece. Released as a deluxe hardback 2CD album, digital download and even as a special doubl vinyl edition, the latest collaboration has not only breathed new life into the story (Barlow's take on
Replacing Burton in the role of narrator - on the album and in the show - is acting legend Liam Neeson, whilst Ricky Wilson, former Neighbours star Jason Donovan and Wet, Wet, Wet singer Marti Pellow (stepping in for Barlow on stage) round out the cast.
Discussing the new show, Jeff Wayne said:
“Over the years, I’ve been privileged to have had the participation of some truly great artists. For me, the real bonus is that I’ve always been a true fan of those who have come on board; to me it’s not been ‘work’, just great fun.
"As our Journalist I was thrilled to have attracted Liam Neeson to my New Generation productions. He has, so-to-speak, been handed the ‘baton’ from Richard Burton, and I believe audiences and listeners alike find Liam’s interpretation no less compelling.
"For the new arena tour Ricky Wilson, Jason Donovan, Kerry Ellis, Marti Pellow and Will Stapleton each have a magic that draws audiences to them and I welcome them all to ‘The War of The Worlds’."
Commenting on his involvement with the latest incarnation of the stage show, actor Liam Neeson, said:
"I've been a huge fan of The War of The Worlds score since I was a kid, so to be asked to work with the legend that is Jeff Wayne was a real privilege.
The 15-date tour kicked off in Liverpool on December 1st 2012 and during its run - ending on December 17th in Brighton - The Comics Code was fortunate enough to catch the show at the nearby Manchester Arena on Saturday December 8th. Taking place on the same night as the first part of the X-Factor final (also in Manchester) The War of the World's proved it was more than a match for Cowell's behemoth, by entertaining audiences in a way that the X Factor has recently failed to achieve.
Wayne's terrifying, yet so damn catchy score, interspersed with perfomances from an all-star cast created a fantastic two-hour show that played to a packed audience. Foots were tapping, heads were nodding and when the Martian vessel descended from the rafters - breathing fire no less - and took to the stage, audiences were treated to a show unlike no other.
Fans of the original album and show will find much to like about the new take on the classic material, whilst a whole new generation will continue to listen and love The War of the Worlds for years to come. In 1978, Jeff Wayne created something which has yet to be rivalled in the music world and until Martians do descend on Earth - surely the chances are a million to one? - long may it continue.