War Horse started its life as a novel in 1983. Michael Morpurgo wrote the story of a boy and his horse, which is laced with sentimentality and has echoes of the boy-and-his-dog books that were once so popular (think of the Lassie series).
War Horse deals with a young teenager, Albert Narracott, whose father buys Joey, a horse, at an auction. The family needed a horse that could pull the plow. But Joey had good blood lines and didn't want to be trained to pull a plow. Albert and Joey become best friends.
At the start of World War I, the English military bought horses to help with the war effort. Albert's father sold Joey to the military, breaking Albert's heart. Albert attempted to join the military to be with his horse, but he was rejected because he was too young. The story takes the horse through battles to peace time, when an old, worn out Joey returns to Albert.
When War Horse opened on Broadway the production received five Tony Awards: Best Play, Scenic Design, Lighting Design, Sound Design and Directors. A special Tony was awarded to the Handspring Puppet Company, which helped make the horses so life like. Certainly, a story of a poor family in England and scenes of war does not call for bright costumes. However, everyone seems dressed in the same dark colors, making identification of the characters by color impossible.
The audience favorite here is Andrew May, who plays Captain Friedrich Muller. May worked in Cleveland with the Great Lakes Theater for a number of years. He is known for his ability to play any type of role, but he is usually cast as the handsome, romantic interest. He left Cleveland to make his way to Broadway. On opening night the Cleveland audience cheered for May and for the performers who managed the horse puppets.
This is an excellent production of a wonderful story. The battle scenes may be too much for some children. But the moment when a boy and his horse are reunited brings tears of joy to everyone who has owned a pet.
The touring production of War Horse, at the Palace Theatre in PlayhouseSquare through April 21, 2013. Ticket Information: 216-241-6000. The production moves to the Ohio Theatre in Columbus, Ohio, for a run April 23 through April 28, 2013. For more information on the tour, visit warhorseonstage.com/tickets/us_tour.
The next show in the Cleveland Broadway Series will be Guys and Dolls, May 1 through June 30, 2013, in the Hanna Theatre.
Joey as a foal: Mairi Babb, Catherine Gowl, Nick Lamedica
- David Ritchey