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Exclusive Interview With Composer Jeff Wayne
By James Whittington, Sunday 24th May 2009
It may come as a bit of a shock to some, but Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version Of The War The War Of The Worlds has been with us for over 30 years. To celebrate this fact and to coincide with a new tour of this musical masterpiece we spoke to Jeff himself about his love of this piece of music and his plans for the future. No one would have believed what he had to say!   ZH: So then, here we are celebrating over 30 years of your musical version of The War Of The Worlds, does it feel that it’s been that long?   JW: Yes it does!! But in a good way, actually. The world and life personally has changed so much, TWOTW remains a very close friend that has travelled with me during it all.   ZH: You’re taking it out on the road for a third tour later in the year, do you still get a buzz when performing it live?   JW: There are two stages to each new tour we do:

1.  The pre-production which is the phase where new ideas, testing new technologies, meeting with potential new cast members, and anything else that the newest production will have in it.
2.  Performing TWOTW. As the conductor, I have the best seat in the house- I’m in the middle of all the music and live performances from the guest artists, and all around me are these incredible technological ingredients. For 2 hours or so, I feel like a hovercraft – my feet don’t return to earth until I’m back in my dressing room after each show.   ZH: Have you made any dramatic changes to the show this time around?   JW: There is a range of new ingredients - one major one is from the world of illusion, levitation specifically and it involves one of our new guest artists – Jennifer Ellison in the role of Beth, Parson Nathaniel’s wife. There are a range of other new special effects, and for the first time we have our own travelling stage which has allowed us to re-design our stage, and conceal things that previously had to reside on top of it.   ZH: Why did you re-cast some of the vocal talent for this tour?   JW: This is our 3rd UK tour, and after the UK we play shows in Holland and Germany, before we head out to the US and Dubai. In 2007 we’ve also played Australia and New Zealand over a 5-week period. Every tour there have been cast changes – sometimes because of the availability of certain performers, or, as in the case of down under, 3 cast members who were major names there came in for that tour because our promoters felt that they would add extra value to TWOTW. At all times, we been so fortunate that no matter who has played a given role, they’ve all been superb and given their own individual slant on the part they’ve played.   ZH: Will this be the last time you’ll be taking your musical version of The War Of The Worlds on tour? If so would you allow anyone else to perform it live?   JW: At this juncture I’m firmly attached, but you never know. What tomorrow might offer. Recently we’ve been asked to explore a west end production by a major west end producer – that type of production would have to be created for the scale and expectancy of a west end production. Having a 10-piece band and 46-member string orchestra with me conducting wouldn’t work in that context, so it’s about judging each production on their own merits.   ZH: You’ve got a really cool piece of merchandise being produced for sale at each gig, that is a CD recording of the actual event. Was that a hard decision to make for it may capture any orchestral or vocal errors?   JW: Good point, but isn’t that what ‘live’ performance is all about? It doesn’t matter whether you’re a band, a solo artist or TWOTW – if we goof, unlike a recording studio, you can’t stop the show and announce to the audience that we’re going to take that bit again! But that is the whole adrenalin rush of live performing – to try and be perfect every show.   ZH: We heard a few years back that a movie based on your musical piece was in production, is it nearing completion yet?   JW: That’s the CGI feature film we had started production on before TWOTW alive on stage! Came along. We’re hoping to return to it from next year when these next tours are completed. We’re not a huge producing company, and our team is very hands on, so touring and producing a major feature film at the same time simply hasn’t been possible. But the tours themselves have benefited by having some 100 minutes of high definition CGI that runs on our 100-foot wide x 20 foot high screen in perfect sync with the live performances (including some changes added in this year) that without the year or so of R+D on the film side, would never have been ready for the first tour in 2006.   ZH: So when the tour is over what plans do you have? Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions?   JW: Aside from putting energy back into the CGI film, I have another musical work – The Call Of The Wild by American author Jack London that I’ve started sketching out already. I’m hoping to have enough expanse of time to realize the full potential of that wonderful story. TWOTW never stops to amaze me with new projects opening up regularly, so whatever I say today, may have to be re-explored later on, so it’s best to just leave it there!   ZH: And for the future, how about a tour of one your other major musical pieces, Spartacus?   JW: It’s been a most interesting thing that since our tours of the TWOTW started in 2006, it’s probably been one of the most asked questions about whether Spartacus might become another multi-media live arena tour. Aside from certain creative ingredients to the score that I want to re-visit, I most definitely think Spartacus would excite live audiences in its own, unique way.   ZH: Jeff Wayne, thank you very much.

Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War Of The Worlds is on tour throughout the UK in June. Click here for the latest information.        

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