I've always loved stories about horses. I cheered for “The Black Stallion,” excitedly hoping he would win the big race. I cried for Artax when Atreyu lost him in the Swamp of Sadness and I even had a friend in Flicka. The connections that humans have with horses is unlike most other animals, and it is because of this unique connection that stories about horses make such great movie subjects. “War Horse” is another truly touching tale, based on a 1982 children's novel by Michael Morpurgo. The acclaimed book was transformed into a stage masterpiece in 2007 and is now making it's first national tour, stopping in Denver for a short run.
“War Horse” is actually a simple story, but it's told in the most beautiful and stunning way. It's the story of a beautiful horse purchased at auction by a farmer and his son, Albert. Albert names the horse Joey, falling for him quickly. The two are a great pair, until Joey is sold to the British Army and becomes a war horse during WWI. The love between the boy and his horse never dies, and Albert sets off, joining the military and fighting in the battlefields, never losing the hope of finding his dear friend Joey.
So just how does a horse, well several horses actually, come to life in live theatre? Through the magic of the spectacular Handspring Puppet Company and the animation and projection work of 59 Productions. The vast landscapes and multiple locations are handled with the utmost simplicity, as actors hold stage pieces together and move...no... dance into place. Each and every detail is amazingly and lovingly presented. Background characters and actors help the setting, and a simple folk singer and his accordion help move along the story. But it is this simplicity that makes the puppetry and projection work truly stand out, commanding the attention they so richly deserve. This is the future of theatre, this is the type of storytelling that today's artists should be striving to achieve.
"Each and every detail is amazingly and lovingly presented"
The entire cast and crew is spectacular, lead by the breathtaking Andrew Veenstra as Albert. Veenstra brings a very real connection to Joey, as the puppeteers (it takes three men to handle the one puppet) bring very realistic and believable life to what feels like a live horse. Yes, the handling of the puppets is so specific, so precise and so realistic, that it is quite easy to forget it is not a live horse. The physical demands placed on the puppeteers must be tremendous, though you would never know it. Truly they are like carefully choreographed dancers, creating visceral and stunning life together on stage.
There really are very few words to express how moving and how brilliant “War Horse” truly is. I can not remember the last time I was so entranced by a production. “War Horse” is only in Denver through January 20th, and tickets are sure to sell out. Do not miss this production, for it is one of the most magical and spectacular productions to ever grace the live stage.
Denver Center Attractions Present:
Playing through January 20
At the Buell Theatre
Tickets start at $35