A puppeteer’s dream come true

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As a huge theater geek, I was overly excited to see War Horse at TPAC. I’ve heard so many amazing things about this show and I even watched a short documentary about the making of the horses in this show. To say that my expectations were met is an understatement. Even if you’re not a big theater fan, you will be blown away.

War Horse is about the relationship between Albert, a poor farmer boy, and his half-thoroughbred horse, Joey. Albert raises and cares for Joey and develops a strong relationship with him, but as World War I begins, Albert’s father sells Joey to the military. Albert, being too young to enlist, is heartbroken to be away from his beloved horse especially knowing that Joey is away in battle. After three years and no news of Joey, Albert runs away and enlists in hopes of finding him.

While the story is amazingly moving and beautiful, I was completely taken by the horses. Three actors, who make up different parts of the body, operate the “horses,” which brings them to life. You will believe that there are actual horses on stage. One of the things that gave me chills was when a horse “died”; the actors would quietly exit the puppet to symbolize the life leaving the body. I could not believe how beautifully it was done. I never thought I could be so emotionally attached to a horse puppet. 

On top of the amazing puppetry, the music is phenomenal. There is a man, a balladeer, who comes on stage to sing various songs for different scenes. I usually tend not to notice the background music but it is too beautifully done to ignore. It is haunting and breathtaking.

The set is quite simple but works really well. A single strip of a projection screen provides a background for each scene. The lighting is amazingly done and the sound effects so realistic that, when they “shot” their guns, my heart almost jumped out of my chest and was ready to run out the door.

War Horse is also really funny at times, which is not something I had expected from a show like this. It’s also one of the most frustrating things to watch at times because a good deal of the humor rests on a “you JUST missed me” sort of thing. All I wanted to do was stand up and scream, “LOOK BEHIND YOU, YOU FOOL.”

I got really into the show, so much that the woman sitting next to me was NOT happy with me. The show had me crying and laughing. I fell in love with everything about it: the story of a bond so strong that war cannot even break it apart, the willingness to go to war for someone you care so deeply about, and hardships overcome by both Albert and Joey in their struggle to stay together. There is not a doubt in my mind that Joey did everything a horse could possibly do to stay alive in order to see his master again, even if he couldn’t speak. If you haven’t bought tickets yet, I highly recommend it. It will grab your heart and shake it about, leaving you in awe of the whole thing.

War Horse is at TPAC now through June 8th