Published Wednesday, November 28, 2012, 2:17 PM EST
Philadelphia’s 2012-2013 “Broadway Season” (presented by The Kimmel Center and The Shubert Organization) has kicked off, with a two-week Academy of Music run of the touring version of National Theatre’s epic War Horse, winner of five 2011 Tony® Awards, including “Best Play.”
War Horse is based on Michael Morpurgo’s novel. Steven Spielberg developed the show into a motion picture, released last year.
For the sake of potential audience members, Greater Philadelphia Theater Examiner is not into giving away plot details unless absolutely necessary. So, in summary, War Horse might best be described as Seabiscuit meets The Lion King (stage version) meets All Quiet on the Western Front meets Lassie.
There is enough singing in War Horse that the production should be described as a “show” than a “play”; however, the songs are more for background and to give a sense of the World War I era than to advance the plot in a way typical of Broadway productions from Oklahoma! onward. There is not a whole lot of dancing. The plot (again, not being given away here) is compelling enough, and the actors’ performances are fine. The dialogue is adequate, if not particularly outstanding.
But none of those are close to the main reason to see War Horse. That main reason, quite simply, is the way several operators give personality to life-sized puppets, mostly horses (naturally enough), along the lines of the way animals are brought to life in the stage version of The Lion King. The staging and technical aspects are brilliant, to the point that one basically doesn’t notice the humans on stage operating the puppets.
Additionally, the life cycle of the relationship between the main protagonists, a young Englishman, Albert, and his horse, Joey, is quite touching. Numerous audience members had tears in their eyes at various points during the performance this reviewer attended.
The tour of War Horse is directed by Bijan Sheibani based on the original direction by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, and presented in association with Handspring Puppet Company.
In addition to “Best Play,” War Horse received Tony® Awards for “Best Direction of a Play,” “Best Scenic Design of a Play,” “Best Lighting Design of a Play” and “Best Sound Design of a Play.” A Special Tony was given to Handspring Puppet Company for its integral work on the production.
The 2012-2013 of War Horse heads next to East Lansing, followed by stops in Des Moines, Chicago, Denver, Costa Mesa (CA), Tempe, Seattle, Portland (OR), Spokane, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale, Fayetteville (AR), Charlotte, Providence, Minneapolis and Appleton. More information about the U.S. tour can be found via this link.
War Horse can also be found on stage in New York, London, Toronto, Berlin and in an Australia/New Zealand tour. A UK/Ireland tour will take place starting in the latter part of next year. More details about the other productions of War Hourse can be found via this link.
The other 2012-2013 Broadway Season productions include: Million Dollar Quartet (Dec. 11 – 16); Jekyll & Hyde (Dec. 26 – 30), both at the Forrest Theatre; Catch Me If You Can (Jan. 15 – 20); Priscilla Queen Of The Desert (Feb. 26 – March 3); The Addams Family (March 19 – 24); and Sister Act (April 2 – 7), all at the Academy of Music. The new season will also feature additional shows including: Les Misérables (Jan. 2 – 13) at the Academy of Music; Cirque Éloiz ID (Dec. 26 – 30), Green Day’s American Idiot (Feb. 12 – 17); BLUE MAN GROUP (March 5 – 10), Rock Of Ages (June 14 – 16), all at the Merriam Theater; and the return of Wicked (June 26 – Aug. 4) for an extended summer engagment at the Academy of Music.
Season ticket packages for the 2012-2013 Broadway Season are still available by calling 215-893-1955 or online at kimmelcenter.org/broadway1213.
The Broadway Season is presented by The Kimmel Center and The Shubert Organization.