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  • Jeff Wayne's Musical version of War Of The Worlds released in 1978 is one of the great concept albums mixing progressive rock with symphonic orchestra and vividly remember buying the album on the year of its release with my Christmas money . As I write this at the start of 2014 the album remains the 38th best selling album in British chart history with over 2.5 million sales . In 2012 Wayne decided to update the album . Brave move because there's a danger that you're going to release something so radically different that the original fans are going to hate what you've done . Wayne decided to play it safe and the 2012 version is little different from the original save for the line up where notably Liam Neeson replaces the late Richard Burton . That said the album itself didn't sell very well just like Wayne's musical version of SPARTACUS fro twenty years ago . so the market of a concept album seems confined to the 1970s . This is the stage version of that 1978 concept album

    You certainly can't fault Wayne for his ambition . This mixes stage performance with cinema and because you can't expect Liam Neeson to commit himself to a theatre run he appears as a hologram and yet the physical presence of Neeson feels very real and he emits a sense of gravitas on to the audience . The music plays and singers come on stage as HG Wells iconic alien invasion story takes place . This isn't .so much a stage show but more of an experience and undoubtedly a logistical nightmare for everyone involved . Neeson's narrator is required to knock out Jason Donovan's deranged preacher which sounds more difficult than it sounds . Leaves fall on the audience as the show stopping ballad Forever Autumn plays , a Martian fighting machine comes on stage as humanity loses its war against the invaders with the fighting machine firing its heat ray in to the audience . Perhaps the most difficult feat is the ending when a Martian vaporises an unnamed NASA controller live on stage that will have you gasping " How did they do that " ? The audience must have gone home very satisfied and this DVD is a great substitute for those of us who missed the stage show

    A word on the film playing in the background . It's done in a cartoonish CGI sort of way which is in no way a criticism . If it resembles anything in look then it resembles Zack Snyder's 300 and at the same time looks very expensive especially when it shows epic crowd scenes and one wonders how expensive this was ? Undoubtedly the most impressive aspect is the Martians themselves who are disturbingly alien and slimy and the stuff of nightmares . I'm sure if Wells himself was alive today he'd give this show his seal of approval
  • The New Generation is a 2014 stage adaptation of Jeff Wayne's musical and is a re-imagining of his 1978 concept album, retelling the story of The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells.. Told from the perspective of the unnamed Journalist.Influential as it has been a seminal piece of musical artistry; Jeff Wayne's 1978 concept album for his progressive rock spin on the acclaimed sci-fi novel had also been brought to the big screen in the camp 1953 movie which it was a partial throwback to. With legendary Welsh actor, Richard Burton providing lead narration as the titular Journalist who recounts his experiences in 19th century; Great Britain when Martians invaded the Earth. Chronicling the ongoing turmoil, and his horrifying experiences as he along with an military Artilleryman who's path he has crossed, they journey together so that the Journalist may find his love; Carrie and his new companion to report to Headquarters. The story was renowned for when science-fiction was a rarity in literature (The Time Machine being another of Wells 's works) as well as it's abrupt and jarring climax. Back in 1978, the idea of bringing the album to life on stage might have seemed too ambitious and elaborate a production to develop. Holographic technology utilized to bring Irish Actor; Liam Neeson (who replaces Burton) to life may not have been quite so advanced in 1978 as it is today. However in 2014 with it having sufficiently progressed in it's advancement to be proficient in Wayne's objective, the once seemingly impossible was achieved. With it's charismatic lead being joined by fellow new cast-members; Marti Pellow, Ricky Wilson, Will Stapleton, Kerry Ellis and last but unquestionably not least; Jason Donovan. It has to arguably be the crowning achievement in it's creators career since it's initial inception. Sublimely histrionic in it's dramatic rendering; with it's stars emoting with camp conviction which befits the fanciful nature of it's source material, the story is somewhat relayed to it's audience via a cinematic screen displaying pre-filmed footage. Featuring a wide array of extras and digitally enhanced computer imagery recreating Victorian Britain, and giving it an animated quality that reflects it's cartoonish aspect to complimentary effect. Undoubtedly challenging in execution for Wayne, his production team as well as his talented cast who each talk directly to the Journalist as if actor Neeson is actually there. On occasion objects are past between his protagonist and the other supporting players as if he's really present. Clever as it is, it's backed up further by an extraordinary model recreations of the iconic Martian Tripod which looms majestically as an ominous presence, highlighting part of the alien invasion. With undeniably powerfully robust songs which are performed with a mixture of more traditional orchestration, and electronic synthesizer's which reverberate a cosmic sense of eeriness which permeates the musical plays entirety. It's beyond impossible not to be entranced by the magisterial and seeming omnipresence of the Martian threat. With each member of the cast channeling the highly charged range of emotions which punctuate the severity of the figuratively pseudo-biblical and apocalyptic world event that is taking place. It's non-more depicted so succinctly than with Jason Donovan's religiously feverous, Parson Nathaniel. A man who along with his devoted wife, Beth portrayed with dutiful love, loyalty and compassion by Kerry Jane Ellis who is luminescent in the beauty of her physicality as well as her vocal skills. It provides what is arguably the zenith of it's dramatic power with Donovan awe-inspiring as the near crazed Parson, and we palpably feel the full weight of his spiritual hysteria. As the Sung Thoughts of the Journalist, Marti Pellow is as perfect casting choice as, The Narrator in the stage production of Willy Russell's, Blood Brothers. Projecting an ethereal quality which befits a quieter moment after the preceding storm. Will Stapleton himself harmoniously channels the voice of humanity with his electrifying, and super-charged rendition of, Thunderchild. An electrifying song which tells of the battle between the Royal Navy Battleship of the same name. A vessel which engages Martian fighting machines in an almighty battle as they defend the steamer which carries the Journalist, and it's other passengers as they make their exodus from London. Last but not least is Ricky Wilson of Kaiser Chief's and, The Voice fame who channeling David Essex plays the Artilleryman with supreme confidence and vigour that is mesmerising. Bold, brave and infinitely audacious, The New Generation ranks as quite possibly the crown jewel in Jeff Wayne's illustrious career for both it's technological and theatrical accomplishments. It's a statement I make as someone who had never really been a fan of the original concept album before, and given it any of the attention it richly deserves. The production should have as lengthy a stage run as one would hope for, and undoubtedly must make for an even more electrifying experience to witness live as it is was for me in my own home.