Following a popular UK and European arena tour in 2012, Live Nation and SJM Concerts announced that Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of The Worlds would return for the sixth and final time in late 2014 and early 2015, with RG Jones Sound Engineering of London providing a range of Martin Audio MLA (Multi-cellular Loudspeaker Array) components for the sound reinforcement system.
Conducted by Jeff Wayne, the most ambitious production yet featured Liam Neeson in 3D holography, Jason Donovan as Parson Nathaniel, Westlife’s Brian McFadden as The Sung Thoughts of The Journalist, X Factor 2005 winner Shayne Ward as the Artilleryman, Les Miserables’ Carrie Hope Fletcher as Beth, Parson Nathaniel’s Wife, X Factor 2013’s Joseph Whelan, as The Voice of Humanity, the 36-piece ULLAdubULLA Strings and the 9-piece Black Smoke Band.
The show is mixed live in surround sound and features special effects such as the 3-ton, 35-foot tall Martian fighting machine firing real flames into the arena, a 100-foot wide “animation wall” with two hours of cutting-edge CGI, the incineration of a cast member in front of the audience’s eyes, and a ground-breaking levitation effect.
Adding a new dimension in the spectacular finale, HG Wells, author of The War of The Worlds, was brought to life in three riveting scenes within the show – aged 33, 53 and 79 – spanning the end of the 19th century and two subsequent World Wars. Scottish actor Callum O’Neill played HG Wells, best known for his role as ‘Wee Dingwall’ in Disney Pixar’s 2012 summer blockbuster, Brave.
The production’s front of house engineer Simon Honywill believes this to be the most daring production so far, and he once again utilized MLA. “Frankly, in an ideal world it would be the only system I would ever work with,” he says. “It’s the most intelligent touring system ever, that has been responsible for the dramatically increased level of performance and coverage consistency, and paints such a neutral canvas that the slightest adjustment I make on the desk delivers exactly what I want for the audience.”
The War of The Worlds presents extremely challenging pieces of music to portray accurately in a live setting. The musical elements, consisting of the band, the orchestra, the iconic narration, live acting and singing, playback and surround effects, occupy more than 140 input channels, and the audiences expect an unprecedented level of detail.
The rest of the production is just as epic, and this makes for a demanding daily task for the entire crew, working on a tight schedule with 12 trucks of gear to load in and out. For the sound team, set-up times and system tuning opportunities are very limited, and with any system other than MLA it would have been difficult to get the consistent results across a wide range of venues.