War Horse


REVIEW by Willard Manus

A miracle show about a miracle horse.

WAR HORSE, which premiered in London in 2007 and won five Tony Awards for its 2011 Broadway run, has checked into the Ahmanson Theatre as part of its national tour. With its epic story, ingenious puppetry, gifted cast, and impeccable production values, WAR HORSE is without question one of the great theatrical events of our time.

Adapted from the novel by Michael Morpurgo, WAR HORSE focuses on the relationship between Albert (Andrew Veenstra), a young English lad, and his horse Joey (choreographed first as a foal, then as a fullgrown steed, by the genius puppeteers). The action moves from the English countryside to the killing grounds of WW I, with Joey serving in the infantry, Joey the cavalry. WAR HORSE captures all the violence and brutality of the so-called great war, but never losses its essential humanity, thanks to the bonding between man and horse. It's not just Albert who bonds with Joey, by the way, but one of the enemy as well, a German captain named Friedrich Muller (Andrew May) who saves the horse's life on numerous occasions.

Friendship, survival and hope are what WAR HORSE is all about, but these themes are explored in a war-is-hell setting brought viscerally to life in a variety of ways: animation and projection design, realistic battle scenes, thunderous bomb explosions, blood-drenched decor and lighting, an operatic music score (complete with wandering minstrel).

WAR HORSE is a busy show, a complex show, but whatever it does, it does memorably well.

(Through July 29 at the Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave. Call 213-638-2772 or visit centertheatregroup.org)