Sunday, January 29, 2006

The War of the Worlds: The Musical

Obviously I'm not talking about the slightly disappointing Spielberg movie remake (only slightly disappointing because I was helplessly charmed by Dakota Fanning, although there wasn't supposed to be a little girl in the story), a special effects extravaganza that had too much Tom Cruise thespic *cough* flexing and too little story development. Nor am I referring to the 1938 Orson Welles radio adaptation which sent hundreds of Americans running to the streets in panic (a textbook example of mass hysteria).

What I am talking about is the 1978 musical version created by Jeff Wayne. I clearly remember hearing the opening track, The Eve of the War, some time in the mid-`80s as my brother played a cassette tape (no cds yet back then) in his room, volume turned up to a booming blare. First there was this rich male voice narrating:

"No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century, that human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of space. No one could have dreamed that we were being scrutinized as someone with a microscope studies creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. Few men even considered the possibility of life on other planets. And yet, 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."

And then, tun-tun-tun! Tun-tun-tun! I must have jumped out of my skin. There was this strange, wonderful music, loud and symphonic, yet modern and otherworldly, something akin to what would now be described as electronica. Understand that back then I was used to fun `80s new wave, pop and slow rock ditties with saccharine lyrics, innocuous folk songs, and so on. To me, Wayne's sound was fresh and exciting, and the science fiction tale that it accompanied was completely captivating. I had always thought that Wayne's TWOTW was well ahead of its time. The music was apt for the script which was well-written and nicely paced. I loved it from then on. (Loved it so much that I found a way to use it in a school program during Social Studies week. I had some willing classmates perform Spirit of Man, a brave effort which turned out pathetically (pardon to the soul of H.G. Wells, he must have turned in his grave, LOL), no thanks to a crappy sound system and low tech cassette recording. *wistful sigh*) It was only a year or so ago when I realized that the journalist-narrator was actually Richard Burton. How can one not listen raptly to such a voice as his? I didn't even know until recently that the musical adaptation was a commercial success, topping the charts and winning awards. To date it has sold 13 million copies worldwide.

I just heard that hurray hurray, this very same musical will be performed live in concert halls soon. Richard Burton will himself resurrect his role as the narrator - or more aptly, the producers will resurrect Richard Burton from the dead, in holographic form, to narrate while a string orchestra and solo vocalists perform the music and high tech visuals play on giant video screens. Can you imagine burton's 3d head floating on stage, performing? now that is science fiction! The initial plan included five 30-foot Martian fighting machines, flying machines and the Thunder Child frigate on stage, but that might change. People say some of the venues do not seem big enough to accomodate such large scale models. But ah, the thought of this all! Hearing the music live, that alone would be a treat! *ears wiggling in excitement*

The cast of the live tour will include Tara Blaise (who I'm unfamiliar with) as Beth, Chris Thompson (doesn't ring a bell either) as The Voice of Humanity from Thunder Child, and in a most intriguing turn as far as his career is concerned, Russell Watson as Parson Nathaniel. Spirit of Man is one of my favorite tracks (along with The Eve of the War, Forever Autumn, and Thunder Child). Having Russell play the despairing curate should prove very interesting. Very tricky role, singing and acting as a man who loses faith and sanity. The counterpart, visionary Artilleryman will be played by Alexis Jaymes (who I have not heard of, either. Anyway, anybody interested in more info on the cast should check the official TWOTW site).

Too bad I live at the other side of the hemisphere, there's little hope of watching this live. Thank goodness at least that they're planning to release it in dvd! *smacks lips in anticipation*

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Anonymous said...

lady, I am impressed at your level of attention when you watched the version you are alluding to.
But what's that allusion to that "slightly disappointing movie" by Steven Spielberg? Since when do you practice politically correct euphemisms? *lol*
Contessa (who else?)

imogen_ph said...

since i decided that spielberg must have intended to make a movie that only borrowed the novel's premise? ehehehe.

seriously though, did you know that spielberg was one of the judges who gave the TWOTW musical the USA Best in Recording in Science Fiction and Fantasy award (i don't know when, i'm guessing sometime in the late `70s)? he must've gotten interested in making it into a movie from that time. (the visuals that came with the jeff wayne album were fantastic - note that spielberg remained true to that vision at least ;-))

Anonymous said...

well, I knew that you were the most generous and forgiving person on earth.
Hope Mr Spielberg will find your blog also... eheheheheh. ;)