War of the Worlds

A.K.A Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of the War of the Worlds: Alive on Stage!/The New Generation/Life Begins Again etc etc

I am a huge fan of WotW. Have been since I was a kid - my dad used to play it in the car on long journeys, and we have DVDs of Alive on Stage and New Generation. He and my grandad went to see New Generation in London at one point, and I recently went to see it in Cardiff with him so, like with many albums I love, I consider him the expert.

We share a lot of opinions on it, including the indesputable fact that Brave New World is the best song on the original album. I mean, it's a banger! But I'm getting ahead of myself. The reason I love this album primarily is that it's so different to a lot of musicals, but manages to get across the atmosphere of the original book to a T. I don't think a typical musical could do the same thing by any means. The leitmotifs of different aspects - the tripods, the heat ray, the Martian rockets, the red weed - may be overt, but I think they're necessary and helpful to set the scene on what was originally an album with no visuals.

The first disc of the album is my favourite, because while the second disc contains Brave New World, Dead London pt 1 (which has no pt 2 in the original??) and the Epilogue, it also contains The Red Weed and Nathaniel's whole schtick which makes it actively worse than disc 1. Disc 1's only potential sin is Forever Autumn and it's not even that bad. Bear in mind I'm still talking about the original. It gets worse later in time. The first half of the album is far more drivemn story-wise than the second, when the pace slows down. That annoys me, but to be fair I think it is objectively the best decision to make because it mirrors the story itself. The early days of the invasion are action packed, but very quickly things slow down and the days start to blend together into one big long mess. Red Weed is still too long though.

As I said earlier, I got to see the Life Begins Again tour in Cardiff this year (2022). It was a great show! I had a lot of fun despite a few confounding factors. The venue confiscated my bag (my bad, I didn't read the website beforehand), the people behind us wouldn't stop complaining about not being able to see, my parents were very stressed about everything and my dad was suffering from being too ambitious at Nando's earlier. I also didn't like some of the changes to the show, but overall I'm glad I went.

The first thing I noticed is that they haven't updated the animations since the very first show. Or at least, they've added some new ones, but they look like they haven't been updated since the very first show. You'd think with the amount of money they make off this show they could afford some good CGI right? It's not even bad in a charming way. it's just bad.

In terms of the Guys, Jeff was there, obviously. Chris Spedding (I think?) the guitarist was still kicking as well. He was so kicking in fact that he got carried away going bonkers during Heat Ray that he forgot to stop at the end of the song and had to trail off mid-bar. That was the only mistake I noticed across the show which is pretty great, though it looked like the tripod was having slight hydraulics issues. Nothing show-ending, or even noticeable, but some guys were crowding around it during the interval and kicking the legs back into place. Kevin Clifton as the Artilleryman was something me and the 5 other people in the WotW fandon were worried about. As Artilleryman lovers, we were all very concerned that he was treated right. However, I have to say, he's in safe hands with Kev. I would even go so far as to say he is the best Artilleryman to date. His performance was energetic and far more realistic than the original disc. He even seemed appropriately harrowed after being attacked by the heat ray. The Voice of Humanity (Nathan James) was also a standout performance - but how can he not be? He looks like a goddamn viking and sings like an angel. Liam Neesson is good, if somewhat unnecessary, as the Journalist. And no shade to Justin Hayward, who has a lovely voice, but he is a tad too old for Anna Marie Wayne as Carrie. Some suspension of disbelief is required.

Before I jump into the music, can I just say, the bits with H.G. Wells are stupid and unnecessary. Ok, back to business.

We don't need more Forever Autumn. This is too much Forever Autumn. The New Generation characterises Carrie too much in my opinion. She's intended as a goal that is just out of reach, not some romantic figure. She isn't that important, Jeff. Just cos you want to give your kid something to do. What else is completely unnecessary, in my humble opinion, Life Begins Again is completely goddamn pointless and ruins the end of one of my favourite songs. The end of Brave New World is supposed to be a calm moment in the storm, where the Journalist takes a break for the first time in who knows how long. Proof that there is still something good left in the world, even if he chooses in the end to leave. They turned it into a full-cast singalong for literally no reason I can see. It's out of place and it takes stage time away from the Artilleryman, who is already under-utilised. It is slightly better, if still unwelcome, in the finale. But it still doesn't need to be there! It's meaningless, and I think Jeff needs to accept that he already finished his damn album and it's not a work in progress.

I'm not suggesting we bring back the floating Richard Burton head. OK, I am suggesting that but only for comedy. Point is, I don't want things to stay exactly as they are. That would be stupid. I just think that giant changes and giant segments don't need to be edited, especially things that have no artistic or in-universe reason to be there.

So, yeah. I have lots of opinions on WotW. And at the end of the day, I am perfectly content to sit at home and listen to the original album. It will always be special to me, and I think that goes for a whole damn lot of people on this earth. Ulla.

Last edited: 12/04/2022