War Horse, the visually arresting play about the bond between a young man and his horse set against the backdrop of the first World War, officially opened on Broadway April 14.
Lincoln Center Theater aligned with the National Theatre and producer Boy Boyett to import the acclaimed drama that debuted in London in 2007, where it continues to run. War Horse began previews on Broadway March 15. It is directed by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, who staged the original.
Nick Stafford (The Battle Royal, The Snow Queen) adapted Michael Morpurgo's 1982 children's novel (originally told from the point of view of the horse) for the National Theatre production, which incorporates a series of life-sized equestrian puppets, which have the capability of strikingly lifelike movement. Each evocative creature (created by Handspring Puppet Company) is manipulated by an on-stage crew of three puppeteers who give life to a horse named Joey, as he grows from a skittish foal into a full-grown horse.
“It’s an astonishing achievement – that these three actors can create such a powerful presence onstage: an animal that seems sometimes to be completely out of control, that has a mind entirely of its own," puppet director Basil Jones told Playbill magazine.
Seth Numrich, who recently appeared as Lorenzo in Broadway's The Merchant of Venice with Al Pacino, plays the role of Albert, the young man who shares a deep bond with his horse, Joey. The ensemble cast also features include Stephen James Anthony, Zach Appelman, Alyssa Breshnahan, Richard Crawford, Sanjit de Silva, Matt Doyle, Austin Durant, Joby Earle, Joel Reuben Ganz, Ariel Heller, Peter Hermann, Alex Hoeffler, Brian Lee Huynh, Jeslyn Kelly, Ian Lassiter, Tom Lee, Jonathan Christopher MacMillan, Jonathan David Martin, Boris Mc Giver, Prentice Onayemi, Bhavesh Patel, David Pegram, Katy Pfaffl, Stephen Plunkett, Leenya Rideout, Liam Robinson, Jude Sandy, Hannah Sloat, T. Ryder Smith, Zach Villa, Elliot Villar, Cat Walleck, Enrico D. Wey and Madeline Yen. War Horse won the 2007 Evening Standard, Critics' Circle and Laurence Olivier Awards for the set design by Rae Smith and Handspring Puppet Company; Toby Sedgwick received an Olivier Award for his choreography.
Here's how LCT bills the work: "At the outbreak of World War I, Joey, young Albert's beloved horse, is sold to the cavalry and shipped to France. Joey is soon caught up in enemy fire, and fate takes him on an extraordinary odyssey, serving on both sides before finding himself alone in no man's land. But Albert cannot forget Joey and, still not old enough to enlist, he embarks on a mission to find his horse and bring him home."
The production features designs by Rae Smith and original puppet design and construction by Adrian Kohler, lighting by Paule Constable, and movement and horse choreography by Toby Sedgwick. The puppetry directors are Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler; video designers are Leo Warner and Mark Grimmer; and songs are by John Tams. The production has music by Adrian Sutton and sound by Christopher Shutt.
War Horse began performances in October 2007 at the National's Olivier Theatre where it continued in repertory for a sold-out run through March 2009. The production transferred to the West End's New London Theatre March 28, 2009, where it continues to run. Stephen Spielberg is also at work on a film of the novel, which will arrive in late 2011.
View highlights from the show: