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Theatre Information

Broadway in Richmond War Horse

By • Oct 30th, 2013 • Category: Reviews, Virginia
War Horse
Broadway in Richmond: (Info) (Web)
CenterStage-Landmark Theatre, Richmond, VA
Through November 3rd
2:35 with intermission
$28-$78 (Plus Fees)
Reviewed October 29th, 2013

When I first heard that War Horse was coming to town, I have to admit I had never heard of it. Then, as I started telling people I was reviewing it, I received universal responses of “Oh, I loved the book,” “Oh, I loved the movie,” and “Oh, I’ve been dying to see the play.”

I then did some research and wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The plot seemed very complicated, and I wondered when I saw that the horses were puppets, whether this would be similar to A Lion King.

War Horse is a play based on a book of the same name by children’s writer Michael Morpurgo, and adapted for the stage by Nick Stafford. It is being presented as a part of the Broadway in Richmond series at the Landmark Theater. The quickest way to summarize the plot would be to say, boy meets horse; boy loses horse, boy gets horse back.

To tell a bit more without divulging too much of the plot; a captured foal is sold at auction. Two brothers fight to bid for it, with one brother, Ted, who is a known drunk and deemed a coward for not having fought in Africa with his brother Arthur, winning. His son, Albert, then raises and trains the horse and names him Joey. As World War I breaks out, Ted sells Joey as a War Horse. This is back in the days before modern warfare, where horses are ridden into battle and are used to cart ambulances and weaponry.

The remainder of the story focuses on what happens to Joey and Albert during the war.

On the one hand, the special effects, especially the puppetry of the animals was magical and awe-inspiring. The horses were so elaborate and lifelike in their movement that they each required 3 people to maneuver them. The principal performers were strong and entertaining as well. Michael Wyatt Cox carried the show capably as the 16-year-old Albert, who is just as spirited as his horse, Joey. Catherine Gowl also stood out as his strong and loving mother, Rose.

On the other hand, the plot seemed to drag and get too complicated in Act II. It may have been too ambitious to try to include so many plot details and characters from the book. Also, between the various accents (which were also hit or miss among the actors) and the acoustics, it sometimes became very difficult to follow what the actors were saying.

I must also note, while I realize the ushers are probably all volunteers, their “performance” actually detracted from the show. Only 2 doors were open on the main floor, causing a major back up entering the theater. Once inside, groups of them were just standing together, not helping seat patrons. Then, once the show started, they continued to seat patrons without waiting for scene changes, and without attempting to shine their flashlights down, out of the audience’s eyes!

And the eyes were indeed the most important sense organs for War Horse. Not only were the special effects extraordinary, but the set itself was fascinating. While sparse, it was highlighted with a fragment of a screen above it, which resembled a page from a book. All kinds of imagery were then used to create the scene; almost as if the audience were using their collective minds to create the images from the written page.

It is these visual effects which make War Horse a gem of a play to be seen by the entire family. They bring World War I to life for children of the fast-paced internet age, and will entertain and impress the adults as well.

Photo Gallery

Andrew Veenstra as Albert and Christopher Mai, Derek Stratton, Rob Laqui as Joey Joey (Christopher Mai, Derek Stratton, Rob Laqui)
Andrew Veenstra as Albert and Christopher Mai, Derek Stratton, Rob Laqui as Joey
Joey (Christopher Mai, Derek Stratton, Rob Laqui)

Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

Cast

  • Joey as a foal:Mairi Babb, Nick Lamedica, Andy Truschinski
  • Joey: james Duncan, Adam Cunningham, Aaron Haskell
  • Topthorn: Jon Riddleberger, Curt James, Gregory Manley
  • Coco: Brian Robert Burns, Jessica Krueger
  • Heine: Brendan Murray, Caden Douglas
  • The People
    • Song Man (Instrumental): Spiff Wiegand
    • Song Woman (Vocal): Megan Loomis
    • Lieutenant James Nicholls: Brendan Murray
    • Arthur Narracott: Andrew Long
    • Billy Narracott: David Hurwitz
    • Albert Narracott: Michael Wyatt Cox
    • Ted Narracott: Gene Gillette
    • Chapman Carter: Chad Jennings
    • Allan: Michael Stewart Allen
    • Thomas Bone: Brooks Brantly
    • John Creig: Brian Robert Burns
    • Rose Narracott: Catherine Gowl
    • Priest: Andrew May
    • Captain Charles Stewart: Caden Douglas
    • Sergeant Thunder: Andrew Long
    • Private David Taylor: Andy Truschinski
    • Paulette: Mairi Babb
    • Private Schnabel: Brooks Brantly
    • Captain Friedrich Muller: Andrew May
    • Private Klausen: Michael Stewart Allen
    • Doctor Schweyk: Brendan Murray
    • Colonel Strauss: Gene Gillette
    • Sergeant Fine: Brooks Brantly
    • Corporal Klebb: Chad Jennings
    • Emilie: Ka-Ling Cheung
    • Paddy: Brendan Murray
    • Manfred: Chad Jennings
    • Ludwig: David Hurwitz
    • Matron Callaghan: Catherine Gowl
    • Veterinary Officer Martin: Joe Osheroff
    • Goose: Gregory Manley

Disclaimer: Broadway in Richmond provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

This article can be linked to as: http://showbizradio.com/go/9764.

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