The War of the Worlds
Reviewed on Wednesday 17th February 2016
Jeff Wayne’s musical version of The War of The Worlds has found its way to the West End following eight years of world-wide arena tours. Recreating Wayne’s 1978 concept album, the show is essentially a staged concert production with the orchestra positioned onstage throughout.
HG Wells' alien versus human storyline is narrated by Liam Neeson; for the majority of the time Neeson is simply projected onto screens which are constantly lowered and raised onto the stage. It becomes unbearably tedious, and when he eventually appears as a hologram the effect is underwhelming. The footage feels old and immediately dates the production.
Bob Tomson's production is like organised chaos. Not a single character is fully established by the end of the night. David Essex, Jimmy Nail and Heidi Range's roles are more like small cameos. Michael Praed tries to carry the show as George Herbert, but his performance gets lost amongst the madness. Madalena Alberto returns to the Dominion where she starred in Evita almost two years ago and is, without doubt, the strongest vocalist in the show.
It's wonderful to see Daniel Bedingfield make a return to the UK, but sadly he seems out of his depth as The Artilleryman. Shouting random words within sentences, Bedingfield's acting ability is non-existent. I also have serious concerns for his vocal health, perhaps Bedingfield was unwell or straining too hard due to press night nerves - there is no way he can sing the score like that eight times a week.
It's great to see Wayne conducting the show live with such passion. The orchestra sound wonderful, filling the Dominion's huge auditorium. You can't fault the commitment of the ensemble who work extremely hard whilst performing Liam Steel's choreography. The design fails to impress whilst the lighting seemed sloppy and is yet to be fine tuned.
Maybe there were issues adapting the production from arenas to the West End, but somehow something has gone very wrong here. The War of the Worlds is not a representation of the quality of theatre usually staged in the West End. There's no denying that Jeff Wayne is an amazing talent, but this show is a big mess with the orchestra being the only saving grace. Going forward, with some fresh lead vocalists, perhaps The War of the Worlds would work better as a production for radio.
Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)
The War of the Worlds runs at the Dominion Theatre until 30th April 2016.
Please visit www.dominiontheatre.com for further information and tickets.