Thursday, February 16, 2006

Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds

When Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera took the record for the longest running Broadway musical ever from the same composer's Cats, you might imagine that pretty much sealed his status as the king of the musicals. But you be wrong. So wrong. In fact, the award as the biggest selling musical of all time goes to...Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of War of the Worlds. Yep, Lloyd Webber may have some kind of hold over Broadway, but Jeff Wayne is yer man when it comes to selling units.

Back in the summer of 1978 (they had summer's back then, you know) Jeff Wayne released a double album musical version of HG Wells' classic scifi shocker about an alien invasion of the home counties. (Apparently an American actor recently starred in a film version of the story, with the setting transported to the New World.)

In any case, Wayne gathered up a few showbiz chums, including heavyweight acting talent, such as Richard Burton (not at the height of his powers, but hey, Burton's off years knock the spots off most of his colleagues) and musical turns from the likes of Phil Lynott, as well as two lads who've been a bit quiet of late, David Essex (whose Rock On album Wayne produced) and Justin Hayward, formerly of the Moody Blues (please try and keep up there down the back). Together they waded through Well's story -- sometimes rather well, as in Burton's case, sometimes with a kind of twee awfulness that became somehow rather attractive, as in the case of Hayward's perennial, Forever Autumn.

The album mixed Pink Floydy farout-osity with truckloads of noodly pop and some teeteringly pretentious spoken word to create one of the most extravagant pieces of aural kitsch the world has ever known.

But as if selling 13 million copies of the original album weren't enough for Wayne, he is now taking the show on the road in a son et lumiere extravaganza which fetches up at the Point Theatre on 30 April. Although neither Philo nor Burton are with us any longer, the later at least will show up on stage, in what Wayne describes as "Sight and Sound" (which we can translate as 'on tape'). On the plus side (possibly) Justin Hayward is part of the live cast.

After the April tour, there are plans for a spin off TV Series and indeed (quite logically) a Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds Theme Park. Everybody say UUUU-LAAAA!


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