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The Rat who is made of Stainless Steel

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The War of the Worlds Alive on Stage. Wot I Would Do Different
So I went to see The War of the Worlds Live on Stage yesterday. For those that don't know it's a filmed version (on limited release at the cinema) of the new stage version, Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of War of the Worlds - The New Generation. This "New Generation" version is Wayne's reworking of the original, featuring a new arrangement and cast. Phewee.

I wanted to gather my thoughts on what worked, and what didn't work, at least for me. As per usual it will be badly written, and I will lose the will to write it about halfway through.

In terms of what worked: I actually quite liked Liam Neeson as the journalist, and he grew on me as the performance progressed. Most of the rest of the cast worked well. Jason Donovan did a good job as the priest, as did Ricky Wilson as the Artilleryman, and Kerry Ellis as Beth. Will Stapleton was a curious choice and clearly ready to ROCK. The only disappointment was Marti Pellow. I couldn't tell whether his vocals were odd, or were mixed in with some additional vocals that were wavering all over the place. In short it sounded like he was singing underwater. I'll talk about the CG below, but the visual effects worked best when they were either an odd mix of live action and simple 2D drawing, or similar to the drawings from the original album artwork. Oddly as the performance went on the CG seemed to reduce (thankfully) and the aforementioned took over.

In terms of what didn't work: as with the previous stage production the 90s CG animation is abysmal. The new arrangement adds little, and if anything detracted in places - there were additional sound effects towards the end that sounded like someone with a Casio keyboard was playing over the top, loudly. The arrangement was also spoiled by cheap sounding vocal effects e.g. those added to Nathaniel during The Spirit of Man. It all felt overthought. I've never liked the end of the original musical - it would be much better to fade out with the tremendously uplifting "Epilogue (Part I)" - the tacked on "Epilogue (Part 2) (NASA)" just feels cheesy. The addition in the stage version of the opening sequence, with the tripods and aliens (really not helped by the awful CG), just makes matters worse. War of the Worlds *needs* to open with those classic words from the journalist. The on-stage tripod is also a little hokey. It's a shame there wasn't something more imaginative and spectacular, not that I pretend to know what. Jeff's bandy legged conducting also looks rather odd.

Overall I was glad I went, it's still an epic musical that brings tears to my eyes in places. I can see that refreshing the cast and sound could have some benefit but (a) I'm not convinced by what has been done and (b) I can't help but think it's more about Jeff Wayne's bank balance. Re. the latter though, I can forgive him pretty much anything for having written the original musical.

Personally I'd rather Wayne invested his efforts in making a film to accompany the original musical version (no, not the 90s CG effort that didn't see the light of day). I've often imagined something like the artwork from the original album, brought to life in animation. Could it be done profitably? It's certainly a very popular album.