Let me start out by saying that I haven’t written a “theatrical review” piece since … well, since I was getting a grade for it. I have almost NO experience with Broadway shows, and I don’t remember anything about specific acting styles or anything like that. I do like to think, however, that I can tell when a play has been done well, and when it’s been filled with life. War Horse is exactly that: brimming over with life. The show was practically breathing.
I was so concerned that I was going bawl my eyes out throughout the entire show. I’m (most of the time) pretty good at giving myself in to the spirit of the production and fully suspending my disbelief when it comes to seeing a play, so if there’s going to be some emotional stuff happening . . . yeah, that crying lady is probably me.
Really, though, I spent most of the time feeling breathless. Sure, I cried a few times because of the plot, but watching the puppeteers bring those horses (and birds) to life was an emotional experience in itself. I loved that the puppeteers were very simply there. No extra attention was called to them, and there was no attempt made to hide them, either. When Joey was a young horse, one of the puppeteers was moving the entire time, gently heaving the horse’s chest as he breathed. Honestly, they were all moving the entire time. Joey’s ears would flick every once in a while, his tail would swish randomly . . . I don’t know if I can say much more without getting annoyingly gushy about it. The puppets were absolutely mesmerizing.
The show as a whole was . . . formidable. An emotional force. The only static part of the set was a giant scrap of torn sketchbook paper, which was used as a projection screen throughout the show. I’ve seen plenty of shows that use projections terribly, and this was not the case for War Horse. For the most part, the projections were subtle and did a good job of providing a little bit of constant setting to such a sparse stage.
I appreciated the cast, as I don’t imagine that it could be easy to share the stage with such amazing puppetry. The accents were pleasant, the leads were strong, and the rest of the cast made for a very satisfying ensemble. For the most part, I found there to be a quiet symbiosis between the actors and the horses, and I think that they definitely rose to the challenge of interacting with these massive creatures. I became emotionally attached to many, and fell in love with a few of the characters, which is, for me, a sign of a job very well done.
The show is marketed as a family show, and is recommended for kids aged 9 and up. For the most part, I agree. Courage, faith, and love are all prevalent themes, and the ending leaves you with hope. I will say, however, that, oh my goodness you guys, this show is physically powerful. There are moments of music and lighting and rumbling and war that are overwhelming even for me, an almost 30-year old woman. There are deaths, there is darkness, there are ghostly soldiers, and a little mild profanity. You know your kids’ ability to handle mature content; use your expert judgment!
I’m so grateful to Omaha Performing Arts and the people behind War Horse for allowing me to see this show. I don’t think I would have gone to see it without a little nudge, and I’m incredibly glad I did.
Time for a little chat…
In return for this and a previous post, I received two complimentary tickets to War Horse from Omaha Performing Arts and the touring show. All of the thoughts in this post, however, are my own. I also paid for my own sippee cup of wine. I also missed 4 or 5 minutes of the show due to a false-alarm involving suspicions of a Norovirus Attack . . . as long as we’re being honest.