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War Horse

When I first saw War Horse in London in late 2007, I was speechless. In my review, I wrote, "We can only hope that the producers are able to bring this show to the states, not only to dazzle us with their technical virtuosity, but to transform us with Joey's and Albert's journeys."

And they did. And they won the Tony for best play. I didn't see the show in New York, but I from what I read, it was comparable to the original at the National.

Joey as a foal, with puppeteers (left to right) Catherine Gowl, Nick LaMedica, Laurabeth Breya
Joey as a foal,
with puppeteers (L to R) Catherine Gowl,
Nick LaMedica, and Laurabeth Breya
Photo: © Brinkhoff/MÖgenburg
Although trimmed for the road, with less scenery and a few effects lightened up as well, the emotional punch still leaves us searching for words to convey the heart rendering power of the story and the astonishment at the spectacle.

You must understand that this started with a young adult novel, about a boy and his horse. Pause for a second and think about the transformative nature of our relationships with other species. One of the most positive trends that I've seen on Facebook is the number of people who "like" rescue animal services. Now imagine living on a remote farm in rural England, circa 1912.

Joey fully grown and Andrew Veenstra as Albert
Joey fully grown
and Andrew Veenstra as Albert
Photo: © Brinkhoff/MÖgenburg
As great as Julie Taymor's masks and costumes are in The Lion King, imagine if the all the sometimes cartoonish features were jettisoned and what you were left with was a living, breathing animal on the stage—one that makes you wish you were on that saddle, riding across the countryside, astride an earthly dragon. Exhilarating!

Since you undoubtedly followed the above link to absorb the details of the show, I won't dwell on the storyline, only the new elements and the admirable talent that brought this wonderful show to life.

(Left to right) Andrew Veenstra as Albert, Brian Keane as Arthur, and Angela Reed as Rose
(L to R) Andrew Veenstra as Albert,
Brian Keane as Arthur,
and Angela Reed as Rose
Photo: © Brinkhoff/MÖgenburg
As you may have noticed, this is one of those rare occasions—perhaps there have been as many as three or as few as one other, in the course of 1600 plus reviews—in which I succumb to the first person, jettison any notion of objectivity, and go with the personal voice. War Horse will do that to you. I guarantee it!

The performances are up to the original: Hats off to Andrew Veenstra as Albert Narracot, Brian Keane as his father, Arthur Narracott, and Colorado's Angela Reed as Rose Narracot, as his mother. The ensemble is splendid throughout. John Milosich grabs us as the Song Man (Vocal), with his heartfelt renditions.

The evening was topped off with a brief visit with Donald Seawell, the centenarian founder of the Denver Center. I look forward to our annual lunch together at the Denver Center Theatre Company's New Play Summit, coming up in a few weeks.

Meanwhile, if you have not seen the stage production of War Horse, splurge! You will not regret it! It's far superior to the movie.

Denver Center Attractions' presentation of War Horse, based on a novel by Michael Morpurgo, adapted by Nick Stafford, presented in association with Handspring Puppet Company, runs through February 14th. For tickets: 303-893-4100 or www.denvercenter.org. Thanks again to the National Theatre of Great Britain and all the producers, as well as directors Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr!

Bob Bows

 

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