” No one would have believed…” are the opening lines in Jeff Wayne’s musical version of THE WAR OF THE WORLDS. I got the chance to meet the American composer, who conducts the live orchestra on stage, during previews for the West End premiere of the reimagined production about the invasion of the earth by ruthless Martians at London’s Dominion Theatre last week.
The original 1978 concept album became a global music phenomenon. Adapted from English author H.G Wells’ 1897 sci-fi novel, it was one of the first stories to detail a conflict between mankind and an extraterrestrial race. Jeff’s musical reached the Top 10 in 22 countries and in eleven it was number one. It picked up many accolades including two Ivor Novello Awards, whose judges included Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Alfred Hitchcock. In 2009 it was listed as the 39th best-selling album of all time in the UK.
On the original recording, Richard Burton plays the Journalist/Narrator, which I said to Jeff, must have been a great experience. He acknowledged that and said he had been privileged to work with a lot of great people on the project. In an interview Jeff said his first choice for the narrator was always Richard, because “his voice was like a musical instrument.” He wrote to him in 1975 when the legendary actor was playing EQUUS on Broadway and received a call a few days latter. He loved the concept and said “Count me in dear boy”.
When I asked Jeff to sign my sketch I specifically asked if he could please add the Martian war cry “ULLA!” which he was happy to do, “OK, but first I’m going to write something else”, and inscribed Richard Burton’s opening lines from the intro tune, ‘The Eve of the War.’ Very cool.