I believe I’ve seen every play that’s come to fruition on Broadway this season. One of the most magical experiences you’ll have in a Broadway house is at War Horse, adapted by Nick Stafford, which by no coincidence is probably my favorite play of the season. To explain why War Horse is so breathtaking reduces it to sound like a cheesy junior high play. To really understand what the company does on stage, you have to actually see it.
War Horse is an uncomplicated story about boy, Albert (Seth Numrich), in England whose father, Arthur (T. Ryder Smith) buys him a horse and the bond that’s created between the two of them (the boy and the horse). The father, who’s a raging drunk, sells the horse into the army as the First World War is starting and the boy runs away to join the army and find him. There’s also the conflict of the rivalry between Arthur and Ted (Boris McGuiver) and his son, Billy (Matt Doyle).
The horse, as a foal, is controlled by three people, and as a mammoth stallion, a total of four people work to bring together a few costume pieces and fabric and create what is nothing short of amazing. One cast member controls the head and makes the incredibly precise sounds that an actual horse would make.
There is a tiny bit of singing, mostly English hymns. The acting is fantastic all around (a favorite of mine was Matt Doyle) and the minimalistic set (by Rae Smith) lets the incredible creation of the horse come to life. The lighting (Paule Constable) and sound (Christopher Shutt) designs are also breathtaking. Credit is also due to the directors, Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones.
I’ve not done the show justice in my description but if you spend money to see one play this season, War Horse is worth every single penny. The design of the show leaves you wondering if $65 million dollar spectacles, like Spider-man, are really necessary when you can simply ask the audience to suspend reality for 2 hours and use their imagination just a tiny bit.