Liam Neeson's hologram will narrate 'War of the Worlds' musical
Liam Neeson is returning to the stage next year -- sort of -- when he takes over the role of narrator in an updated live touring version of the massively bestselling 1978 prog rock album "Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds." But Neeson won't actually be standing onstage alongside the other performers, he'll be a life-size hologram.
The late Richard Burton provided the voice for the album and for the stage show that's been touring off-and-on since 2006. But Burton, who died in 1984, has been represented in the show by animated projections and look-alike actors who had Burton's face projected onto them. Neeson will record his own version of the narration, but will remain as a hologram.
During a press conference in England on Friday to announce the new tour, titled "The New Generation," Wayne described the more technically ambitious revamp of the show, which will debut in November 2012.
In addition to a 100-foot CGI animation wall, the new tour will also feature a Martian fighting machine that fires real flames at the audience.
"Richard’s performance was 74 sequences, Liam’s is 90," he told journalists, as reported in the Telegraph. "Before, we had one holographic head that hovered over the stage; Liam is that but also a full body performing with the other live characters and appearing on a giant animation wall. This has given us some wonderful opportunities to open up storylines."
Neeson recorded the new narration over three days in April. He will appear three ways during the live production: as a full-body hologram interacting with actors on stage, as an 11-foot-high holographic head and shoulders projected above the stage, and as a performer interacting with CGI special effects on the animation wall. The other performers and the 36-piece orchestra will appear live on stage.
The two-disc album is the 40th bestselling album in U.K. history. Wayne followed it up in 1992 with "Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of Spartacus." The new album featuring Neeson's narration and updated music will be released by Sony Music in June 2012.
The tour will hit the United States for the first time ever, following a run in England starting in December 2012.
Below is an excerpt from the original 1978 album.
--Patrick Kevin Day
Photo: Liam Neeson poses for photographers during the press conference for the updated "War of the Worlds" musical. Paul Hackett / Reuters