Tree takes to the prospect of ‘War’

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I’M lucky to catch Sharon Tree. Trained in classical piano, with a postgraduate qualification in how to teach singing, she’s been pretty much the busiest voice teacher in Canberra, since arriving from Queensland eight years ago.

Joseph McGrail-Bateup as The Journalist in “War of the Worlds”. Photo by Nick Brightman

She’s so busy that she rarely has time to step into the theatrical world, as she did as director for The Q’s award-winning production of Willy Russell’s “Blood Brothers”.

But now Tree is taking to the stage again as musical director of Jeff Wayne’s cult 1978 work “War of the Worlds”.

It’s an ambitious production directed by Ron Dowd, for Canberra’s SUPA Productions, and it’s been testing the musicians and the resources of SUPA, which prides itself on doing “different” musicals.

Just to give you a taste, Act I deals with the coming of the Martians, while Act II shows Earth under the invading forces.

Songs include “Horsell Common and the Heat Ray”, “Brave New World” and “Dead London”.
It’s pretty epic stuff, epic enough to have attracted Liam Neeson and Richard Burton to the central role of The Journalist.

“War of the Worlds” is perfectly suited to Tree because, as she says, “a lot of the story is told through the music”.

With just six actors, headed up by a commentator character played by Joseph McGrail-Bateup as The Journalist and three backing vocalists, she rejoices in leading an orchestra of 27, four synthesiser players, a six-piece rock band and a 17-piece string orchestra.

“It’s magnificent,” she exults as she tells me how the music crosses over rock and classical traditions.

If you know anything about “War of the Worlds”, you’ll be aware that the orchestra and the upstage filmscape of events, based on HG Wells’ 1898 novel, could well upstage the cast. Tree calls it “more like a theatrical concert”.

They’re doing Jeff Wayne’s 2006 touring version that he brought to Sydney, which has introduced a whole new generation to a space-age musical that their parents (and maybe even grandparents) enjoyed.

And is the show just for sci-fi followers? Certainly not, Tree assures me. Her own father is normally averse to sci-fi, but after hearing some of the music, he said he wouldn’t just come to see it once – he’d come twice.

Jeff Wayne’s “War Of The Worlds”,  ANU Arts Centre, October 12-27, bookings to 6257 1950.

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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