Jeff Wayne's The War of the Worlds

Theatre , Musicals
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 2 out of 5 stars
(25 user reviews)
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 (© Tristram Kenton)
© Tristram Kenton

Heidi Range, Jimmy Nail, Michael Praed, David Essex, Madalena Alberto and Daniel Bedingfield

 (© Tristram Kenton)
© Tristram Kenton

Daniel Bedingfield (The Artilleryman)

 (© Tristram Kenton)
© Tristram Kenton

Jimmy Nail (Parson Nathaniel), Heidi Range (Beth), Michael Praed (George Herbert The Journalist)

 (© Tristram Kenton)
© Tristram Kenton

Michael Praed (George Herbert) and Daniel Bedingfield (The Artilleryman)

Fans of Jeff Wayne's 1978 prog opus will dig this cheerily excessive stage version

Would HG Wells have still written his 1897 science fiction novella ‘The War of the Worlds’ if he’d known that in just under a century it would be turned into a very silly prog rock album?

Well yes, probably: despite selling approximately 15m copies globally, Jeff Wayne’s 1978 ‘take’ on ‘The War of the Worlds’ has never threatened to eclipse Wells’s seminal work, and is perhaps easiest explained to non-proggers as a sort of lavishly OTT talking book, containing as it does large chunks of Wells’s original prose. Richard Burton served as narrator on the album and in video segments on the first touring version; a few years back he was bumped for a pre-recorded Liam Neeson.

Now, after years of hopping around arenas, the show has been reworked for a full West End stint, and, er, what a show it is. Against a lavish steampunk backdrop Wayne – a cheery little chap in his seventies – enthusiastically (and, one suspects, needlessly) ‘conducts’ a small army of string players and guitarists, who hack out maddeningly catchy symphonic rock. Lights flare, painfully. A video screen descends, to show us sad-eyed Liam Neeson in the role of Wells’s journalist-narrator. He does a bit of speaking, then the screen lifts away, only to distractingly descend again about 30 seconds later, a pattern than continues for the rest of the show.

Eventually the world’s most random human cast shuffles out, with ex-pop stars Daniel Bedingfield, David Essex, Jimmy Nail and Heidi Range each enjoying virtual cameos that rather belie their prominent billing on the poster. Later on they’re joined by puppet spaceships, puppet aliens, puppet war machines, and lots and lots of pyro. In fact, once it gets going the first half mostly consists of pyro, as the invading Martians proceed to blow up the entirety of middle England with their nefarious heat rays. Occasionally there’s a song – ‘The Eve of War’ and ‘Forever Autumn’ are the keepers – but mostly it’s just pulsating, motif-laden instrumental rock.

Er. I mean look. Wayne’s ‘War of the Worlds’ is a totally preposterous piece of entertainment. But it’s hard to imagine anybody not already a fan of the album buying a ticket, and even as a non-fan I kind of enjoyed its cynicism-free excess. If you expect to like it, you probably will, and more power to you, you crazy prog-loving bastard, you.

Event phone: 0844 856 0202

Average User Rating

2.4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:5
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:3
  • 2 star:5
  • 1 star:11
2 people listening
Bebhínn F
1 of 1 found helpful

Congratulations on managing to make war of the worlds boring. An astonishing achievement! Bravo.

Michael B
1 of 1 found helpful

I loved this. I've seen some comments about sound issues last week but they must have been fixed by last night. I can't explain how much I was gripped by Liam Neeson, the specials effects and that music. I'm definitely going again.

Wayne G
1 of 1 found helpful

I love the war of the worlds music, but this show is such a huge disappointment. Bright lights are shone in the audiences face so often if you don't go home with a headache your lucky. That combined with a phalus spaceship a blue peter standard tripod and chronic dancers pretending to be weeds would make it bad enough. But when you have distorted music, singers you can hardly hear and certainly can't hear what they are singing and poor voice projection you have a very embarrassing show. If this show was put together by professionals you wonder what they are professional in as is certainly not the arts.

Rob e

Sorry, but David Essex is well past his sell by date.... The band was great, but the whole experience nothing like the brilliant shows at the O2.....   AND BRING BACK RICHARD BURTON!!!!!!

Jo F

I bought these tickets on a Groupon deal as I've always wanted to see a live production of the great music - although I should say that I haven't listened to the album in its entirety for many years now. Lots of reasons why I was so disappointed - the extra music added, the leading man, all those people running around on the stage - I actually burst out laughing when the huge metal alien trundled onto the stage! I really like David Essex but even he seemed to struggle a bit. We were hoping to see Laurie Wisefield in the Black Smoke band, although Chris Spedding did a marvellous job. The whole orchestra was very good to be fair. It just didn't seem to translate to a "show". It had been my idea to go - my husband hadn't been keen, and I didn't like to prolong his agony so we left at half time.

Sonia C

I'm familiar with the music but have never seen this show before. Sadly I just didn't get it. The pop rock score was weirdly nostalgic & the opening bars were exciting but unfortunately it was downhill from there. The aliens were cool the first time I saw them but by the interval I felt jaded. All the cast seemed to do was run on & off the stage & avoid the flame throwing beasts. Liam Neeson's voiceover felt incongruous & like Shakespeare thrown into the middle of a cheesy sci-fi B movie. It was a very loud production & some of the casts voices seemed to get lost among the electro-pop synth. I didn't feel engaged with the plight of the humans & actually left at half time.

Ann M

Not good, this does not adapt well as a stage show. Theatre less than half full, no atmosphere at all. Dancing , cast, singing all very poor do not bother .

Sally D

My daughter and I saw the matinee show and we absolutely loved it! We are both huge fans of the music and we weren't disappointed with the show, it was great.

Daniel G

What a total load of rubbish

I have been to hundreds of theatre performances and shows in my life and this must surely be the worst. If you really want to hear the music, get the CD and save yourself from an awful experience (and some money too).

There were quite a few people in the audience who thought the show was wonderful they gave it a standing ovation. Not me.

Paula - ToT

As a musical performance, this is quite some show but, as a theatrical performance, it lacks some bite.  I think to sell this show as a musical is a bit of a stretch - yes, the staging is very impressive, but the storyline isn’t particularly engaging.  Furthermore, although some of the technology is high tech, others are just plain awful - the alien looks like something some primary schools made.  I can’t really say much about the actors because they don’t really have much to do and the music is really the star of the show.  The music is very good and it’s a shame that the production has been miss sold as something it isn’t. 

Sheila T

I absolutely love the original recording, the casting was sheer genius and I have seen the stadium show more than once. I was not sure how something so big could be made to fit a traditional theatre; but I went along using the Time Out special offer, expecting a lot. You certainly get a lot for your money, not least earache, I am totally deaf in one ear this morning. But I will never tire of the music, even at mega volume, although the new song added little and the kiddies' diction needs attention, what were they saying over and over again? I hoped Jason Donovan, who was in the audience last night, was not disappointed by what he saw; maybe he might revive his role? Now that would be worth seeing. I think some roles might be recast-probably based upon my love for the original recording, The parson's wife needs to be a real belter to carry off 'There must be more to life'.

There were some, definitely unintentionally, laugh out loud moments; one which sticks out for me that I am surprised no-one else has mentioned, was the Parson's wife being dragged skywards in her white diaphanous gown.

Having said all this, I give the show three stars for the sheer spectacle, plus it is great fun. 

Julia K

Saw this last night. I think some of the negative comments must be related to tech issues at the previews last week, cos this was outstanding. Some of the voices are a bit different than the album, but they work, and the reimagining for stage is incredible, everything synced beautifully, a true sensory spectacle. And the music. The music. Highly recommend. 


One star is very generous! This is probably the worse show I have ever see (and I've seen a few!) Staging: awful. It's basically 10 to 15 people running up and down the stage with some fire and cheap light effects Singing: painful. There were so many missed notes it made it comical Music: what music? It felt like I was hearing the same track over and over again Hologram: Yea that was called a projection, you can do the same at home just get a projector from Argos Overall a painful experience. I could not wait to leave and politely wait for the break and save myself from the war of the world!

Daniel C

I really enjoyed this show. The special effects were very clever, the actors dance routines and of the course the incredible music being performed blew me away. In terms of the musical, it's a different sort of performance where the story is narrated rather than a complete act itself like other big musicals. Some parts were repetitive with songs going on sometimes a bit too long. However the story was very interesting and has now pushed me to buy the book. A show worth seeing for the music and a good story.

Joel S

Saw this on Saturday and it was one of the best things I've seen in the West End in recent memory! Seems like there were a few sound issues during the first couple previews (as there often are), but they were improved for the show I saw, as the music sounded incredible and it did Jeff Wayne's masterpiece total justice! The proudction was also fab - great ensemble, great artistry in the dancing. Really is a show like no other - highly reccomend!

Sylvia K
Staff Writer

The experience is not one easily put into words and sadly was not one I personally enjoyed. The orchestra started the show off with dramatic promise, and then the blinding lights, repetitive extra-terrestrial sound effects and an overly loud drop down Liam Neeson swiftly kicked in (not to mention the extraordinarily odd alien form that appeared on stage), followed by frenzied jumping, which all proved a little too much me to take in. I found myself unable to connect with the story and characters. This production was certainly not to my taste, although I must note that the orchestra gave a brilliant performance.

Emma S

Well that was...bizarre? Certainly not the worst thing I've ever seen, but it needs some, if not a lot of work. Several scenes need to be cut out or seriously cut down in the second half and they would really do with adding in some different songs and giving the characters an actual personality, you don't find yourself really caring what happens, it all feels a little helpless. That being said, the music was good and there was a fantastic opening! Combine the music with some actual dance choreography and you could end up with quite a cool, wacky show. It wasn't terrible, but it was too long.

If you are looking for something quite silly, strange and oddly amusing, as in...what on earth is going on??! then you might as well go and see it!

For serious theatre / dance lovers, I'd say stay far away. However, there is a lot of crap people are happy to endure in the West End, like Billy Elliot, because they buy into the Hype, this is no worse, and to be quite frank, at least you'll come out feeling like you've experienced something, however odd that experience may be with something to talk about. 

Charlotte d

There's probably a reason the tickets are half price on Time Out. If you've already bought a ticket and can't return it I'd suggest taking 'Ros A's interpretation and watch this as a completely ludicrous, over-the-top comedy.

The alien wiggles out of its tube and sits there like a panto puppet, the actors spend most of their time either running around and constantly jumping to slow mo or writhing on the floor, and the singing... dear lord some of the singing.

It looks like even the (assumingly) low paid video animators lost their momentum towards the second half, and decided to stick on a Windows Movie Maker slideshow of almost-relevant stock pictures from the internet.

The one saving grace is watching Jeff Wayne and his orchestra - well, on the songs that aren't drowned out by caterwauling and terrifyingly awful visuals.

If you haven't bought a ticket, I'd advise you don't waste your money - or at least go for the lowest price seats! The visuals are not worth it.

Javier M

The mise-en-scene of this musical is quite good. But what makes it impressive is the quality of the music, played by the different class orchestra, directed by Jeff Wayne. It was simply amazing.

Apart from that, for all science fiction lovers, the War of the World is a classic, so the musical a must see musical

Ros A

Having seen the film (which is fairly ridiculous and stars Tom Cruise being very monotone),  I actually didn't have high expectations for this production and I knew it was going to be extremely difficult to stage well. I wasn't wrong, casting martians and scenes of alien domination would have been difficult in a movie studio, let alone on a London stage. 

My friend and I found the production to be very entertaining, but were surprised we were the only ones laughing throughout. Like, it's ok to laugh when a giant alien comes on stage and starts blowing out smoke, right?! Likewise when some kids come onto the stage and start singing "weeyyyyooo, weyyyoooo" repeatedly?! Excellent entertainment if you are a bit silly like me. I think if you take this production as tongue in cheek and a bit fun, you'll enjoy it more than if you're expecting a replica of the fairly serious sci-fi book (or indeed the Hollywood film). 

The music from the orchestra is fantastic and some of the songs are decent but I must say the singing for me wasn't up to scratch and neither was the acting really. Also having the orchestra on stage for the duration meant that the set wasn't able to deliver any sense of realism. That said, I also take into consideration that many people were specifically there for the music (which has won some Awards I believe). 

Florian P

I was wondering how they would fit such a big show onto the stage at the Dominion... The effect and music are really good but the show itself is very repetitive. So yes you can pass an agreeable moment but it doesn't woth £50

Abigail D
Staff Writer

I didn’t have any particular expectations going in to this but it was… baffling’s probably the best way to put it. And annoying. Right from the get go you’re hit in the face with sound which is so loud you lose any nuance to the music, matched only by Liam Neeson’s torso randomly popping down from the ceiling to narrate in a voice so over-amplified he’s crackling. But there’s also dancing? Well there’s a lot of jumping, anyway. Lots of lifting people up and men inexplicably flying around on wires.

The juxtaposition between the heavy, clunky graphics and the live action never settles into a groove; one moment where the floating Neeson head dramatically looks one way and the actor playing the ‘liver version’ looks the other sort of sums it up. You never get the chance to connect with either element of the story; the video game background is cut off by the orchestra, and the actors are overlaid with screens dropping down and booming music so neither the story nor the music can win.

Also there’s fire (clearly they’re going to make the most of that investment) and aliens and spaceships straight out of a 70s episode of Doctor Who, without the knowingness to make them fun. I’m not sure if I’m just so far outside the target audience that I CAN’T grasp the hidden nuances or if it’s just so haphazardly executed that it can’t hold together from the off. I have a feeling it might be the second.

Jonathan R

Attended evening 09th Feb 2016.....  We sat there before the show began with high anticipation , alas for me, those hopes soon dissipated!.. Personally, I felt the overall production repetitive, after all there are only so many times one can view an orchestra being trundled back and forth on their platforms, I found the 'so called' hologram of Liam Neeson face projected on various differing sized screens constantly dropping down here and there throughout a distracting irritation.... It's such a shame as the production is a fine concept, yet let down by general sound quality, over amplified music and stage direction, this show deserves to of been so much more atmospheric.  Don't get me wrong the shows staging is very inventive, and also lovely to look at. 

 I realise I attended the first opening night,  so hopefully various problems will be ironed out, but for me, I longed that the comical Martian machine had come sooner too finish everything off. 

Ced L

Absolutely dreadful.  The review below says it all although I'd add that as a couple of the singers were so awful the poor sound system was a blessing.