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Review: JEFF WAYNE'S THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, O2 Arena

Jeff Wayne's 2022 Tour takes its final bow in London

Review: JEFF WAYNE'S THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, O2 Arena

Review: JEFF WAYNE'S THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, O2 Arena

Of all the retellings of H. G Wells' alien-invasion novella, The War of The Worlds, Jeff Wayne's musical version, is perhaps the most popular.

Beginning as a concept album in 1978, the rock opera quickly became a commercial success. In fact, in 2018, it was listed as one of the UK's bestselling studio albums of all time - selling upwards of 16 million copies.

As a result, it's hardly surprising that the music is the star of the show - with Wayne being joined on stage by the Black Smoke band and the ULLAdubULLA Strings. While the showing began with a little more of a thud than a bang (the result of a technical error that required the show to restart, for what, Jeff claimed, was the first time in 16 years), they quickly bounced back. Despite the size of the venue, true immersion is created through a heavily layered score, impressive lighting, and powerhouse vocals from the cast. To put it simply, there's nothing as powerful as live music.

This production is no stranger to the stage, with a new tour commencing every few years. However, over the past decade, film giant Liam Neeson has remained a constant presence as the narrator, albeit in the form of a voiceover and holograph. The voiceover adds nuance and tension to the score, creating a clearer narrative for the audience to follow. However, there is something to be desired in revamping some of the digital tech used in the show, regarding both the holograph of Neeson (which is dwarfed on the stage) and the accompanying visuals played on a big screen behind the orchestra.

A talented cast rounds out the production, showcasing how the alien invasion impacts human lives on earth. Strictly Come Dancing's Kevin Clifton gives an endearing performance as the Artillery Man - particularly during his Act Two solo, "Brave New World".

Similarly striking is Nathan James, reclaiming his role as the voice of humanity for a second time. James has the spirit and presence of a true rockstar, taking to the stage with confidence and charisma that leaves the audience enthralled. Claire Richards (of Steps fame) gives a strong vocal performance in the role of the Parson's Wife and is nicely paired with Duncan James as the Parson in their duet "The Spirit of Man".

The War of the Worlds is a truly cinematic experience, aided by spectacular special effects throughout - including lighting design from Tim Routledge. Regardless of whether or not audiences are fans of the original source material or are entering this world anew, it makes for a thoroughly entertaining evening - one that may have you looking a little closer into the night sky on your way home. After all, who knows what is really lurking out in the darkness?

While this performance marked curtains down for the 2022 tour, you can find more information about the future of the show here



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