In an archive interview from 2012, American-born naturalised British composer and musician, Jeff Wayne talks to Andy Howells about the origin of his musical version of HG Wells’ The War of The Worlds currently featured on The Shows Must Go On YouTube channel.
“Across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this Earth with envious eyes, and slowly, and surely, they drew their plans against us…”
This Christmas, The Shows Must Go On! presents Jeff Wayne’s multi award-winning Musical Version of The War of the Worlds as part of YouTube’s 12 Days of Culture initiative.
The sold-out debut 2006 production across the UK and Europe featured Richard Burton, Justin Hayward and Russell Watson with Jeff conducting. Originally released in 1978, Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of The Worlds remains an award-winning landmark masterpiece that has continually won new fans and is set to return to the live arena stage in 2022.
War Of The Worlds Book Inspired Jeff Wayne To Write Musical
Jeff Wayne told Andy Howells in 2012, “I consider it lucky that it has reached so many people, rather like a classic painting that has given so much pleasure!”
Jeff composed and produced the original album alongside his father, who had given him the original HG Wells novel The War of the Worlds as a young boy.
Jeff spent several months researching the project before approaching HG Wells’ estate to produce the musical version. Wells’ son, Frank was impressed with the amount of drive and passion Jeff had poured into the project.
Jeff remembered, “Dad and I suddenly owned the rights to The War of The Worlds musical because we’d presented the idea well.”
How Richard Burton Became Involved With Musical
It was then a case of getting performers on board to play the various roles the story demanded, these included an all-star musical line up including Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott, David Essex and Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues. However, to pull the story together, Jeff had only one person in mind for the journalist.
“Looking back it was easy, though I wouldn’t have told you that at the time” he recalled. “I’d assembled my cast of characters and at the top of the list was the journalist with Richard Burton’s name against it. A friend had recently seen him in a theatre production of Equus in New York.
“So, I wrote a letter explaining I was looking for a voice for the journalist and sent the letter to the stage door. This was before the days of e-mails and internet. Robert Lance, Richard’s manager, replied “Richard loves the idea, count him in dear boy!””
Musical Version Of War Of The Worlds Brought To Life On Stage
And so, one of the most iconic albums was recorded storming the charts around the world and spawning several single chart successes including The Eve of War and Forever Autumn.
In the four decades that have elapsed since the release of Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds many associated projects had been rumoured including an animated film. However, it would take until 2006 for Jeff to bring the album to life on stage.
“It had always been in the back of my mind,” said Jeff of the stage-show ”but the technology to do a big interpretation didn’t exist back then (1978).”
The success of the 2006 show which featured the late Richard Burton’s holographic head, made Jeff return to the drawing board to represent the album for a new generation in sound and on stage. His original script had contained over 90 sequences, while he could only present 76 on the finite size of record.
Since the 2006 stage version of Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of The Worlds, Jeff has presented two further exciting tours featuring flame throwing war machines on stage and an on-stage hologram of Liam Neeson as the narrator.
How To Watch Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of War Of The Worlds For Free
Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of The Worlds will return to the UK and Amsterdam from March 2022. Tickets are available to purchase via the official website for Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of War of The Worlds.
Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of The Worlds is free to watch via The Shows Must Go On YouTube channel until January 5 2021. Watch Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of War of The Worlds here.
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