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Review: Jeff Wayne's The War of the Worlds at Metro Radio Arena

The Martians invaded Newcastle again as Jeff Wayne's classic HG Wells adaptation wowed its Arena audience

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Jeff Wayne's The War of the Worlds
Jeff Wayne's The War of the Worlds

Who would have believed that in 2014 the Martians from The War of the Worlds would be invading Newcastle?

The Arena was packed for this performance on what has been billed the last ever tour of Jeff Wayne’s musical adaptation of HG Wells’ 1897 novel.

It was an ambitious project, reconstructing on stage Wells’s story of Martians attempting to eradicate the human race.

But this adaptation once again captivated its audience through the power of its orchestra and iconic narration, provided by Liam Neeson in the form of a hologram.

Shayne Ward as the Artilleryman
 

All the hits from Wayne’s 1978 album were played, including the brilliant Eve of the War, Brave New World and Forever Autumn.

Although the musical featured some high profile names, this show was all about the live band and orchestra, complemented by dramatic visual effects.

Instead of all the action unfolding on stage, the show relies heavily on projections on a 100ft screen. Haunting images of people fleeing Victorian London flashed across it as strobe lighting was fired out over the audience.

The first half of the show had more pace than the second, a particularly impressive moment being when a 35ft Martian tripod came down over the stage, spraying fire out over the audience. I was less convinced by the laser beam that was meant to incinerate people at the beginning.

Brian McFadden as The Sung Thoughts of The Journalist
 

There were a few familiar faces in the cast, including Jason Donovan as the Parson, Former X Factor winner Shayne Ward as the Artilleryman and Brian McFadden, providing the vocals of Neeson’s narrator.

Carrie Hope Fletcher as Beth, the Parson’s wife, had by far the most impressive vocals which sent a chill around the Arena.

For this “final” arena tour, Wayne decided to bring HG Wells, played by Callum O’Neill, to life and the audience saw him explaining the context and motives behind his novel.

To bring the show into the present day, it ends on New Year’s Eve 2014 with a Nasa scientist losing contact with human space probes on Mars.

Rhian Lubin

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