Musicals seem to be a ‘hot topic’ at the moment with the latest film version of Les Miserables hitting the cinemas, and the recent Golden Globe success of Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway for their roles in the film. It’s been quite interesting to see some of the public reactions to it and to musicals in general. Let’s face it, it is a niche market and you’re either a fan or you’re not.
I, myself, was raised on musicals by my parents. Les Mis is their favourite so I knew it quite well, and offered to take them both to the movies to see the film. After noticing my mother’s teary reaction within minutes of the film starting, and reflecting on all the debate I’ve read about musicals since, it got me to thinking about what my favourite musical was.
I don’t profess to having seen them all, but I have seen a decent amount, and many of the ‘big’ ones (Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, Chicago, Les Miserables, etc). And as I racked my brain, it suddenly struck me that it wasn’t one of the ‘classic’ musicals that won top spot. Instead, the musical that hits all the right notes for me (get it?), is: Jeff Wayne’s (musical version of) The War of the Worlds.
Jeff Wayne’s TWOTW was a musical soundtrack that I was raised on. My family, brothers included, were big fans and we listened to it often (particularly on long drives from Geraldton to Perth). For me, TWOTW pretty much ticked all my entertainment boxes. Firstly, it is basically a rock opera (with plenty of strings to boot), put together magically by the great Jeff Wayne, and voiced by the likes of Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy), David Essex, Justin Hayward, and Julie Covington, amongst others. All respected musicians and artists, who were top of their game when the soundtrack was released in the late 70’s.
Secondly, it is an awesome story from the brilliant mind of HG Wells, which really contains a bit of everything I love: sci-fi, drama, action, thrills, and romance. I mean, who doesn’t love a good disaster tale, coupled with a battle of the human spirit? Especially a disaster tale that involves aliens!
Lastly, but one of the most important elements to the success of this musical, I think, is the ethereal narration by the wonderful Richard Burton as The Journalist. He really is the star of the show, and I honestly believe that no-one else could possibly fill his shoes. It just wouldn’t be the same.
Naturally, when the stage show toured a few years ago, I jumped at the chance for tickets. Although, at first, I was concerned as to who would be taking on Richard Burton’s role – after all they were very big shoes to fill! Thankfully, there was no cause for alarm, as Jeff Wayne brought him along for the ride, in the form of a 3D hologram. So the key piece was in place; Richard Burton would still be our narrator, and that unforgettable voice would take us on that awesome journey once again.
I remember looking around at the audience for the show, and thinking what a wide range of people there were. On one side of me, I had the likes of my parents – traditional musical fans, on the other side were faces from the local rock music scene, and scattered throughout were the sci-fi and literary buffs; people of all ages and walks of life. This, I think, is why the musical was so successful – it had such a broad appeal. And being a rock fan, sci-fi fan, and musical fan – this is why it is my favourite musical!
Now, I could harp on about it all day, but the best way to see if I’m talking rubbish, is for you to judge for yourselves. If you’ve not yet heard it, seek it out, take an hour or two and have a listen. Truly awesome stuff!