The Martians are about to land in Canberra. Supa Productions' Canberra premiere of Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds has been in planning and preparation for the past two years.
With 18 string players, a 10-piece rock band and nine cast members, plus computer-generated imagery on a large screen and plenty of sound and lighting effects, it is the biggest-budgeted show the company has produced. It opens at the ANU Arts Centre tomorrow.
The War of the Worlds details the effects of the Martian invasion on a group of people in Britain including Parson Nathaniel (Simon Stone), who finds his faith shaken by what has happened, and his wife Beth (Sarah Golding).
Production manager Joseph McGrail-Bateup plays the narrator, journalist George Herbert, a nod to the first names of science fiction writer H.G. Wells, on whose 1898 novel Wayne based his multimillion-selling 1978 concept album and its more recent incarnation as a touring show. The album is the 10th-biggest seller in Australia, with more than 700,000 sold here.
McGrail-Bateup said he first heard the album in 1980, during a high school music class.
''I'd never heard anything like it before - it struck me,'' he said.
''I remember going back after the lesson and hanging out with the guy who brought it in: we kept singing it.'' He bought it on vinyl and DVD and the production of the latter made him think it would be worth doing on stage.
When he got talking to director Ron Dowd in 2010, a fellow enthusiast, things started happening. McGrail-Bateup tracked down Wayne's company and secured the rights and the use of the CGI for the touring production.
And Supa, which had produced Dowd's earlier rock shows Tommy and Pink Floyd's The Wall, also came on board.
''When [lighting designer] Chris Neal came into it, he said, 'I'm going to do the biggest thing with lights ever','' McGrail-Bateup said. Sound designer James McPherson spent eight weeks creating a time code and click track so all elements - the musicians under conductor Sharon Tree, the CGI, the lighting and sound and the performers - would be perfectly co-ordinated.
''I think it is going to be spectacular,'' Stone said.
Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds is on at the ANU Arts Centre on October 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 24, 25, 26 and 27 at 8pm with 2pm shows on October 20 and 27. Tickets $25-$40 on 6257 1950 or canberrarep.org.au; dinner and show packages available for evening performances from Teatro Vivaldi on 6257 2718.