My friend told me take a wad of tissues when I went to see WAR HORSE, the winner of five 2011 Tony® Awards including Best Play that is currently playing at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (151 W. Randolph St.), for three weeks only until Jan. 5, 2013.
Michael Morpurgo’s novel, War Horse, is also the inspiration for Steven Spielberg’s feature film of the same name, which has garnered six Oscar nominations including Best Picture.
WAR HORSE tells about Albert and his beloved horse, Joey. Albert learned to care for Joey as a colt and raised Joey to a huge and beautiful stallion. Joey is enlisted to fight for the English in World War I when Albert’s father sells him. Devastated, Albert heads off to find Joey. In doing so he lies about his age, is taken into the English Army, and continues his search for Joey.
In this very anti-war play, we see the devastation that war wrought, to the English, to the Germans, to the residents of Devon and those on the battlefield. The use of video in the backdrop brought me right into the war action, bombing, guns blazing, and destruction. The horses were absolutely amazing, larger than life, but convincing in their behavior and movements, they each had distinct personalities. In fact, the puppet, Joey, weighs 120 lbs, was handmade by 14 people and is manned by three people. I almost felt that the horses were a kind of art form of their own.
These puppets, which bring breathing, galloping, charging horses to thrilling life on stage are by the Handspring Puppet Company and earned a Special Tony Award for their integral work on the production. Since its World Premiere in a limited engagement at the National’s Olivier Theatre in 2007 to its second run in 2008-2009, WAR HORSE has been seen by over 2 million people worldwide.
There was powerful action in the play and I found the music enhanced the action, much as a movie sound track does. The few songs carried the action forward but were not central to the play.
Even with the large and impressive cast, core actors played multiple roles very convincingly. Emotions run high, portraying the tension of war, the losses, and the terror. In the first half of the play, English officers make the case for England to enter the war to help France to fight the Germans. By the end of the play, the humanity of each side and the tragedy of war had upended this belief, as one of the most moving scenes in the play demonstrates (no spoilers here!).
The tour of WAR HORSE, based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo, adapted by Nick Stafford, and directed by Bijan Sheibani. This production is based on the original Tony® Award-winning direction by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris. The lead producers of the National Tour of WAR HORSE are Bob Boyett and the National Theatre of Great Britain. Lincoln Center Theater and the National Theatre of Great Britain in association with Bob Boyett, are the producers of the American premiere of WAR HORSE, which opened April 14 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater where it is currently playing an open-ended run. Future productions of WAR HORSE are planned for Australia and South Africa, as well as a UK Tour.
In addition to Best Play, WAR HORSE received Tony® Awards for Best Direction of a Play (Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris), Best Scenic Design of a Play (Rae Smith), Best Lighting Design of a Play (Paule Constable), and Best Sound Design of a Play (Christopher Shutt). A Special Tony Award was given to Handspring Puppet Company for their integral work on the production.
Steven, who was sitting next to me, commented that he has seen many, many theater productions but that he has never seen anything like this. I certainly agree. Arrange to see this soon and I think, you, too will agree.
Tickets are on-sale now and begin at $30. A select number of premium seats are available and tickets are also available for groups of 15 or more by calling Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977-1710. The performance schedule and ticket prices are subject to change. Tickets will be available at all Broadway In Chicago Box Offices (24 W. Randolph St., 151 W. Randolph St., 18 W. Monroe St. and 175 E. Chestnut), the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Kiosk at Water Tower Place (845 N. Michigan Ave.), the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at (800) 775‐2000, all Ticketmaster retail locations and online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com.
*HERO discount offers $25 tickets for the Dec. 23, 2012, 7:30 p.m. performance of WAR HORSE. Use Code HERO when ordering online, over the phone, or in person at any Broadway In Chicago box office or Ticketmaster outlet. *Valid on December 23 evening performance only. Offer ends December 23 at 7:30 p.m. Subject to availability. Not valid with any other offer or on previously purchased tickets. Normal ticketing fees apply. Other restrictions may apply.
For more information, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com or www.warhorseonstage.com.
Photos © Brinkhoff/Mögenburg