'Simply stunning' - Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War Of The Worlds reviewed

Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War Of The Worlds was one of the most spectacular shows ever seen at the arena. Pic: Mick Burgess.
Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War Of The Worlds was one of the most spectacular shows ever seen at the arena. Pic: Mick Burgess.

No one would have believed that a groundbreaking album released 40 years would have made such an impact on so many people.

But having sold millions worldwide, including an astonishing 2.5 million copies in the UK alone, Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War Of The Worlds remains one of the biggest-selling records of all time.

Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War Of The Worlds was one of the most spectacular shows ever seen at the arena. Pic: Mick Burgess.

Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War Of The Worlds was one of the most spectacular shows ever seen at the arena. Pic: Mick Burgess.

On Saturday night, the Arena was packed to see what creator Jeff Wayne hailed as the most ambitious tour yet.

With a cast including Jason Donovan, Newton Faulkner, Adam Garcia and rock powerhouse Nathan James (the frontman of Inglorious) bringing the story to thrilling life, this was no idle boast.

Wayne took centre stage, conducting the 36-piece ULLAdubULLA orchestra, and it joined the Black Smoke Band in creating dramatic crescendos of tension and intense beauty as the story unfolded, all enhanced by gripping animations on a huge screen which stretched the length of the stage.

Projections on two screens to the side of the stage saw Liam Neeson narrating the story, while his 3D hologram interacted with the cast to the extent that a supremely-timed punch floored The Artillery Man, played by Garcia.

Liam Neeson was appeared on giant screens as the Narrator for Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War Of The Worlds at the Metro Radio Arena. Pic: Mick Burgess.

Liam Neeson was appeared on giant screens as the Narrator for Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War Of The Worlds at the Metro Radio Arena. Pic: Mick Burgess.

Faulkner delivered a faultless rendition of the Sung Thoughts of the Journalist, particularly on the shimmering Forever Autumn, while James brought the melodramatic edge to the Voice of Humanity with his huge, commanding voice, which was perfect to project the gravity of the Martian invasion.

With Donovan reprising his role as Parson Nathaniel descending into madness - a far cry from his early days in TV show Neighbours - his interaction with wife Beth, played by Carrie Hope Fletcher, was gripping and their on-stage chemistry was electrifying.

Of course, no show would be complete without the iconic Fighting Machine which descended from the lighting rig blasting jets of flames in its wake with its blood curdling cries of “ULLAAAAA”.

As the show reached its climax, we were brought bang up to date with NASA`s mission to Mars, and with the sinister theme to The War Of The Worlds building for one last time, the NASA Controller was vaporised in one of the most astonishing spectacles ever witnessed in the venue.

A star-studded cast, including Jason Donovan, brought Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War Of The Worlds to life on its 40th anniversary tour. Pic: Mick Burgess.

A star-studded cast, including Jason Donovan, brought Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War Of The Worlds to life on its 40th anniversary tour. Pic: Mick Burgess.

Forty years on, The War Of The Worlds remains as thrilling and enthralling as ever, and the music, the visuals and the whole production was simply stunning, making the 40th anniversary tour the biggest and most spectacular yet.

MICK BURGESS