Set in Devon, in the southern part of England, War Horse is the story of Albert Narracott, a teenage boy who lives on a farm with his parents. His father, Ted, and mother, Rose, are hard working people. But Ted's more successful brother Arthur never lets Ted forget that he stayed home when Arthur went to fight for his country and he often engages Ted to drink more than he should and to bet with Arthur for certain things. This rivalry and betting is the catalyst for several turning points in the play. Albert's older cousin Billy is much like his father and he also often rials up his younger cousin. Joey is the young horse that Ted buys at auction and it is the relationship between Joey and Albert, as well as Joey's relationship with several other people in the play that is the emotional core of the story. Too say any more would give away a lot of the twists and turns in the story, so I won't. Let me just say that both Joey and Albert end up in the war, it is called War Horse after all!
|Numrich and "Joey"|
Seth Numrich is Albert and he plays the part perfectly, young and energetic when he first gets Joey but also matures in front of us as he finds himself enlisted and fighting for his country overseas. Boris McGiver and Alyssa Bresnahan are Ted and Rose, they both display their love for their son in different ways, and the multiple emotions that they play throughout the show are extremely well acted.
|Bresnahan and McGiver|
While this is an ensemble show that reminded me a lot of the use of the ensemble in Les Miserables, they are all effectively used and many get chances to shine in character parts as well. I especially liked Peter Hermann who plays a German officer who befriends Joey and sees the beauty in people as well as horses and even though he is a German officer he slowly begins to realize the insanity of war. His performance is extremely touching and he got a big ovation at the curtain call. David Pegram is a private that Albert becomes friends with, and together they very effectively show the fear and suffering that two young soldiers away from home must experience. Also, the two of them play extremely well the brotherly bond that they form. In smaller parts I liked T. Ryder Smith and Matt Doyle who play Uncle Arthur and his son Billy. Doyle is more well known for musicals, having appeared in the Broadway casts of Spring Awakening and the recent revival of Bye, Bye Birdie, but here he is well used and the nervousness he shows when he enlists in the war and ultimately finds himself at the front of the battle lines is heartbreaking. Smith plays Arthur exactly as you'd expect a wealthy, know it all older man to be, but after Billy enlists and he doesn't know his status, he very effectively shows the fear a father would have in that situation. I also liked Stephen Plunkett who plays the Lieutenant who takes Joey in his care. He is also an artist, who sketches, and his sketches are displayed above the set on a scrim to show the various scenes of the show. This scrim is also used to project other pictures and video that display the various images of war.
|"Joey" and Peter Hermann|
A few favorite moments in the show:
-when one of the horses dies and falls on his side on the stage floor, the three men who operated him, slowly walk away in unison, as if they are honoring him.
-the way the horses, when they are in the background of a scene and thus not the focus of that moment, still act like horses would, moving their heads, prancing a bit and wagging their tails.
-the way the stage of the Beaumont opens up to show the ravages of war.
-the way the Narracott farm goose keeps trying to get into the house.
-the use of music and song to highlight the emotion of various scenes
Sure the play is somewhat melodramatic, but it is so magical, somewhat of a theatrical magic carpet ride actually, that I have to believe it is the front runner for the Best Play Tony and the Best Direction of a Play Tony as well as most of the design categories. Though I'm not sure how they will reward the design of the horses, since they technically aren't sets or costumes, but more so props.
|Plunkett on "Joey" and the cast|
One little quibble- while the main actors get curtain calls of their own, neither T. Ryder Smith, Matt Doyle, Stephen Plunkett or David Pegram do, which I thought was very odd -since all of them have much to do in the show, especially considering that, in a way, they give a solo curtain call to the guy who played the Goose!
|Numrich and Pegram|
Official Show Site
Amazon link for the paperback of the novel - War Horse
Amazon link for the War Horse - Audio
Amazon link for the cd of music from the play - War Horse: Original Music & Songs from the Nationa
Amazon link for the behind the scenes book - The Horse's Mouth: Staging Morpurgo's War Horse
|Matt Doyle and T. Ryder Smith|
Video trailer for the London production -
Behind the scenes clip with Matt Doyle -