<i>War of the Worlds in Auckland</i>
Jeff Wayne's musical version of HG Wells' War of the Worlds at Vector Arena promised to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. Reviewer Tracey Bond was there to find out if the live version lived up to the hype.
Friday night's performance of the live version of War of the worlds at Vector Arena was sold out, not so the Saturday night show - but there was still plenty of buzz in the audience as the lights dimmed and the massive screen behind the 48-piece ULLAdubULLA String section and 10-piece Black Smoke Band, lit up.
The show started with a prologue, in the form of a mini animated movie with the aliens themselves (slimy, tentacled creatures that looked like a cross between predator and mutant horses) explaining why it was necessary to leave Mars and head for Earth (ecological destruction of their own world).
Then without further ado it was over to the narrator - a large CGI head with the voice of Richard Burton.
Jeff Wayne conducted with bags of energy and enthusiasm, something which rubbed off on the musicians, who played their hearts out.
Justin Hayward, as the Journalist, took to the stage singing "The chances of anything coming from Mars..." to excited applause. Hayward sang on Wayne's original War of the Worlds album in 1978.
It was nice to see Vector in a different light - with the floor area filled with seats.
There was plenty of head-nodding and toe-tapping going on during Horsell Common and the Heat Ray.
The quality of the effects created on the screen varied - sometimes they looked state-of-the-art, sometimes a little cartoon-ish.
The depiction of seeing people on Horsell Common fleeing through the alien's vision worked well.
Micahel Falzon as the Artilleryman totally embodied the character, complete with quirky English accent, that was very reminiscent of David Essex who played the original role.
Falzon spent a lot of time during The Artilleryman and the Fighting Machine crawling and rolling around the stage as if in battle.
The set featured a 30-foot tripod set against the backdrop of other tripods marching across the common.
Hayward's vocals on Forever autumn were strong but got lost a little in an over-zealous mix.
Kiwi Chris Thompson reprised his role from the original musical album as 'The Voice of Humanity' and gave his all during Thunder Child.
Watching the tiny warship pit itself againt the tripods on the screen was mesmorising.
But it wasn't until the second half of the performance that the visual effects really came into their own.
The orchestra was bathed in eery red light as the red weed, which invades earth along with the martians, unfurled and crept across the English countryside on the screen behind the musicians.
With something as iconic as War of the Worlds it must be difficult to make the role your own, but Shannon Noll (Australian Idol runner-up) was charasmatic as Parson Nathaniel and the vocals of Rachael Beck as Beth managed to convey vulnerability and strength at the same time.
Michael Falzon had more of a chance to show his vocal range in the song Brave New World - he also made full use of the stage, running up and down like a man possessed, so that when he sang the line 'I'm ready for a bit of a rest after all that', you could understand why.
The on-stage tripod descended again for Epilogue and Vector was filled with a spooky 'uullaaahhh' as the martians' time on earth came to an end.
As the cast and musicians took their bows they all looked genuinely pleased to have been a part of the production.
And there were plenty of smiling faces as the audience filed out of Vector - and quite a few people humming The Eve of the War. War of the Worlds is like that - it gets under your skin.
I completely loved the entire show from start to finish and could happily sit it again and again - and thanks to the benefits of DVD's I shall! I saw it on Friday night and I haven't stopped smiling yet!