War of the Worlds: Liam Neeson stars in Jeff Wayne’s updated musical

15:29 21 November 2011

War of The Worlds musical creator Jeff Wayne (left) and  Liam Neeson,  in front of a holographic image of Neeson, during the launch of The War of The Worlds 2012 musical tour

War of The Worlds musical creator Jeff Wayne (left) and Liam Neeson, in front of a holographic image of Neeson, during the launch of The War of The Worlds 2012 musical tour

Jeff Wayne’s groundbreaking musical version of The War of the Worlds returns to UK arenas with a new star at the helm and a technological leap forward.

The New Generation of the touring musical was launched in London.

It was announced that Liam Neeson will be taking over the iconic role of George Herbert, The Journalist, originally played by Richard Burton in Wayne’s spectacular interpretation of the HG Wells classic science-fiction story.

The production, which has been touring for six years, has been redeveloped for a modern audience.

“There were things in the story that had to be developed,” explained Wayne. “It allowed me to move from production technology of the 70s, to today’s world of technology, set against classic orchestral arrangements.”

The original composer of the 1978 double album, Wayne scored a casting coup with Burton, who became synonymous with the role.

For the new production, Wayne was faced with the challenge of finding the actor who would follow in Burton’s footsteps.

“Perhaps the greatest opportunity was revisiting the main character of George Herbert The Journalist, who ‘threads’ the story together,” explained Wayne.

“Whoever that person might turn out to be, he would have to be of no less stature and quality of voice than that of Richard – an incredibly hard act to follow. And once again I have been fortunate and attracted Liam Neeson to the New Generation productions.

“He has, so to speak, been handed the ‘baton’ from Richard Burton and I believe audiences and listeners alike will find Liam’s interpretation no less compelling.”

As Wayne explained, the use of modern technologies meant that Neeson could be involved in the project and will be featured in full body.

“Liam wouldn’t be able to tour with us for many months, so using CGI and technology, it was a great opportunity to work with him and include him in this project.”

Neeson, who will be interacting holographically with the show’s live performers, explained that he was a long-time fan of the musical.

“I loved the book as a kid. I remember buying the tape. I loved the music. It did sound very, very interesting. We shot it over 3 or 4 days. There’s a camera. It’s on green screen, which I am very used to with Star Wars and Clash of the Titans, but it wasn’t enormously different to shooting a film.

“Doing The War of the Worlds was a one-off. It was literally a week to do it, so it’s not impinging on my career.”

Speaking to the press, the 59-year-old actor said he was not nervous about taking on the iconic role that is so keenly associated with Burton.

“I was just very flattered and I loved Richard Burton. I loved his voice especially. I’m not worried, but certainly I was very flattered.”

The Schindler’s List star said he was keen to see the final production.

“I’m looking forward to it. It starts late November/December. I’m not sure which venue, but I’m definitely going to see it.”

The innovative stage production will feature an 11-foot high holographic ‘head and shoulders’ of Neeson as The Journalist, as he recounts his story of survival from the Martian invasion of Victorian England.

CGI sequences will be seen on a 100-foot-wide animation wall supported by surround sound. The live production also includes some of the most iconic elements from the original including a three-tonne, 35-foot tall ‘Martian Fighting Machine’ firing real flame heat rays at the audience.

The international arena tour of The War of the Worlds will begin in November 2012.

Tickets go on sale this week, on November 25.

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