Sheer theatrical magic! That seems to be the only way to describe Broadway in Austin’s production of War Horse, currently playing at The Bass Concert Hall through May 11. What a spectacular production to close the 2013-2014 the season!
First there are the puppets, if you want to call them that. They move with such nuance, such fluidity, such intelligence that they take on the personae of living, breathing “characters” with personalities, reactions, and emotions. While it may seem hard to believe, the handlers seemed to disappear or fade into the background, and the puppets came to life in such a way that they were compelling, credible characters. To see a full-sized man atop a “puppet” as it pranced and snorted across the stage was magical.
Another major strength of this production was the acting. Characters were clearly defined and beautifully executed. Michael Wyatt Cox’s portrayal of Albert, the country boy whose beloved Joey is sold to the Army by his drunken father, spans the youthful innocence of pre-WWI to seasoned soldier still searching for his beloved horse on the battlefields of France.
These oh so talented actors created many memorable moments in the telling of the story: the German officer who realizes the insanity of war and rejects his position, the effort of two men who moments before had been enemies to work together at great risk to themselves to free an innocent animal, and on and on. Striking was the way every character in this show from the minor supporting roles to the leads crafted a credible microcosm of life in the early 20th century that went from a quiet, rural English village to the horrifying battlefields of France.
The third component in this show related to the technical side of the show: Lighting, sound, scenic design, the visuals, the pictures, the effects, the imagery, the reinforcement of the action. Every aspect of this show is well thought, professional beyond belief, and perfect!
It may be a story of a boy and his love for a special horse, but it is so much more. It is a story of humanity, of common goodness, or rising above the evil around you, and yes even of redemption for those who have hated or hurt or mistreated others. Did I cry? You bet! Often? It was a wonderful show!
Winner of 5 Tony awards in 2011, War Horse runs through Sunday, May 11, 2014, at Bass Concert Hall. Performances are Thursday – Saturday at 8:00 pm and Sunday at 7:00 pm. Matinee performances are Saturday at 2:00 pm and Sunday at 1:00 pm. For tickets go to http://texasperformingarts.com