Liam Neeson joins War of the Worlds musical as hologram

[From BBC News; additional information follows below]

[Image: Actor Liam Neeson poses for a portrait prior to the press conference to announce the 2012 European Tour of Jeff Wayne’s musical version of War Of The Worlds New Generation (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)]

Liam Neeson joins War of the Worlds musical as hologram

By Tim Masters Entertainment and arts correspondent, BBC News
18 November 2011

Liam Neeson is to appear as a 3D hologram in a new version of Jeff Wayne’s long-running The War of the Worlds musical.

The actor takes over the narrator role from Richard Burton, whose holographic head has appeared in the show since it began touring in 2006.

The Northern Irish star said he was “very flattered” to take on the part.

Burton’s narration had been taken from Jeff Wayne’s original 1978 double album, which has sold some 15m copies.

The cast on the original recording included David Essex, Justin Hayward, Phil Lynott and Julie Covington.

In a new element to the production, Neeson’s holographic character will appear interacting with the live performers on stage.

The show, based on HG Wells’ classic science fiction novel, tells the story of a Martian invasion of Victorian England.

At the launch of the 2012 “New Generation” show and album in London on Friday, Wayne said he had decided to “re-explore” HG Wells’ storyline and characters for the new tour.

This, he said, included the main character of George Herbert, The Journalist, as voiced by late actor Burton.

“While it may have been the greatest opportunity, it was also the hardest decision to make because I knew that with a re-developed storyline, a new Journalist would need to be sought, as Richard Burton’s original performance was finite,” Wayne said.

“And 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 tough act to follow.”

‘Head and shoulders’

Burton appeared in 74 sequences in the old show, while Neeson’s character features in 90.

He will take three separate forms: As a full-length hologram, as a holographic “head and shoulders” and also in filmed CGI sequences on a giant screen.

Neeson said he had been a fan of the original album, having bought it on cassette tape in 1978.

He also recalled working with Burton on a 1984 US TV mini-series, Ellis Island, shortly before the Welsh actor died.

“I remember coming out of my trailer and he was listening to this lady with his arms behind his back, and he looked incredibly fit,” he told the BBC.

“I thought ‘wow – that’s Richard Burton’. I didn’t want to go over, I wished I had, but two weeks after that he passed away. He had this ‘halo’ round him.”

The new War of the Worlds tour takes place in the UK in December 2012

[From a press release on the production’s Facebook page]

Based on HG Wells’ Classic Science Fiction Story

The Dazzling, Groundbreaking Arena Production Launches a New Era
Starring LIAM NEESON in 3D Holography, as George Herbert, The Journalist
New Double Album Coming June 2012


Internationally acclaimed actor Liam Neeson will be seen in 3D holography as the story’s narrator and leading a new cast. Neeson will be seen in 3 ways: appearing as the first full body hologram seen on stage interacting with live actors, as an 11-foot high holographic head and shoulders hovering above the stage, and appearing within the 2-hour CGI film projected onto the incredible 100 foot wide ‘animation wall’ which adds a true epic scale to the production.

After 33 years since its original release, Liam takes over from Richard Burton, whose holographic head had appeared in the show since 2006, using the original narration from Jeff Wayne’s classic 1978 album, a sound that has lived long in the memory and deep in the psyche of generations who have heard it.

Over the years, Jeff was often asked how he would approach composing and producing The War of The Worlds in today’s world, rather than the era of the mid 1970s, when disco was king of the dance floor, punk was the revolutionary music of the day and science fiction was being re-discovered in the movies and on TV.

He always answered ‘why fix what isn’t broken?.’ He was proud of the Work and especially of all those who had contributed their varied talents to bring it to life – David Essex, Justin Hayward, Phil Lynott, Chris Thompson, Julie Covington, and of course, Richard Burton. What Jeff never predicted was the extraordinary life his musical interpretation of HG Wells’ visionary and dark Victorian tale would have. Now some 33 years on and as Jeff approached his sixth year of touring The War of The Worlds – Alive on Stage! and an animated feature film now in development, this same question kept returning.

“After long consideration,” says Jeff, “I concluded that for future productions, some of HG Wells’ storylines and characters should be re-explored. It would also give me the chance to re-interpret my compositions with the production techniques of today, exciting from a musician’s point of view.

“But perhaps the greatest opportunity was revisiting the main character of George Herbert, The Journalist and the development of the love story between George and his fiancée Carrie (played by Anna-Marie Wayne). While it may have been the greatest opportunity, it was also the hardest decision to make because I knew that with a re-developed storyline, a new Journalist would need to be sought as Richard Burton’s original performance, was finite.

“And 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 tough act to follow.

But once again I have been fortunate and have attracted Liam Neeson to these 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.”

By good fortune, Liam is a huge fan of the original album, having purchased it when it was first released in 1978. And ironically, as the ‘new kid on the block’, he acted in a mini TV series on what turned out to be one of Richard Burton’s last roles before his untimely passing.


New Generation Facts:

On the original 1978 double album and from 2006 when the arena tours began, Richard Burton’s audio and technological visual performances contained 74 sequences. Liam Neeson’s Journalist contains 90. Richard’s performance was seen in one way. Liam will be seen in three:

  • As an 11-foot high holographic ‘head and shoulders’ as The Journalist recounts in 1904 his story of survival from the Martian invasion of Victorian England some six years earlier.
  • Within CGI sequences seen on a 100-foot wide ’Animation Wall’.
  • Perhaps the most remarkable element, and a world first in live entertainment, will see Liam Neeson appearing full body on stage interacting holographically with the show’s live performers. A triumph of technology and a remarkable performance by Liam.

Jeff Wayne will again conduct the Black Smoke Band and ULLAdubULLA Strings with musical Guest Artistes to be announced for both the new album and tour.

The new live production will also contain exciting new ingredients, as well as some of the most iconic elements returning, including:

  • A 3-tonne, 35-foot tall Martian Fighting Machine firing real flame Heat Rays at the audience and scanning them with its bug-like eyes, as it ‘lands’ on centre stage.
  • Special effects and illusions including a world first ‘levitation’ and the Martian Fighting Machine’s ‘incineration’ of a cast member
  • Leaf drops over the audience and surround sound that engulfs them, contributing to the all-encompassing experience that is The War of The Worlds.

Jeff Wayne’s double album was originally released by CBS records in 1978. It has enjoyed huge success and critical acclaim across the globe with over 15 million records sold and spending over 330 weeks in the UK Album Charts (to date) plus achieving two International hit singles – ‘Forever Autumn’ and ‘The Eve of The War’.

The War of The Worlds has also won two prestigious UK Ivor Novello Awards, the US Best Recording in Science Fiction and Fantasy (the judges included Alfred Hitchcock, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg), as well as winning for Jeff, Classic Rock’s ‘Showman of The Year’ Award.

Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of The Worlds has grown into a true classic, acquiring new generations of devoted followers since its original release.  For anyone of any age, The War of The Worlds – The New Generation is a unique double album and exciting arena show, not to be missed!


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