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BWW Reviews: WAR HORSE - A Brilliant Spectacle of Puppet Mastery

BWW Reviews: WAR HORSE - A Brilliant Spectacle of Puppet Mastery

Every once in a great while, the stars align just right where a story is beautiful, the music is gorgeous, the acting is spot-on, the sets are astounding, the lighting is impeccable, and everything comes together for the magic that is theatre. Such is the case with Nick Stafford's magnificent adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's children's book, War Horse, now playing at the Ohio Theatre through April 28, 2013.

This awe-inspiring extravaganza was originally produced for the London stage by The National Theatre of Great Britain in 2007 before having a successful Broadway run at the Lincoln Center Theatre in 2011. Winning five Tony Awards including "Best Play," War Horse exquisitely combines a deeply touching epic story with incredible technical wizardry.

The gripping drama depicts the unwavering friendship between a boy and his horse during World War I. As a foal, Joey is sold at an auction in England in 1912 to Ted Narracott (played by Todd Cerveris) when he impulsively wins a bidding war against his brother, Arthur (Brian Keane). Ted's teenage son, Albert (Alex Morf), lovingly teaches and trains his four-legged friend, and they inevitably form a deep, unbreakable bond.

Desperate for mortgage money, Ted sells the now fully grown work horse to the Army during the outbreak of World War I for 100 pounds. Devastated, Albert eventually joins the Army illegally as a 16-year-old boy, in hopes of seeking out his beloved friend and bringing him home.

The parallel journeys continue, friendships are formed, lives are lost, but hope and perseverance always remain. It is a hauntingly poetic story of friendship and loyalty, pierced with chilling gunfire and hypnotic musical chants. War Horse triumphantly succeeds in bringing to life the magic of theatre right before your eyes.

Every meticulous detail of an animal's demeanor, behavior and nuance is expertly depicted throughout this powerful, spellbinding play. Jaw-dropping effects come to realistic life using innovative life-sized puppets by the Handspring Puppet Company. Aside from the intricate puppetry, the skillful use of lighting, shadows, and animated projected sketches all work in unison to evoke a sense of pure, raw drama in this masterpiece.

Song woman, Megan Loomis, captivates the mood of the play and entrances the audience with her powerful and hypnotic musical interludes. The entire cast as a whole gives a convincingly stellar performance that literally took my breath away. The physical demands of puppetry combined with humor and raw emotional storytelling is a testament of pure theatrical genius.

War Horse is a massive undertaking that expertly matches its remarkable visual innovations with its gut-wrenching narrative. It weaves an epic story of loyalty and friendship with a riveting work of theatrical stage-craft, thus breathing life into the magic that is War Horse.

War Horse continues through April 28 at the Ohio Theatre, 39 E. State St. For tickets, call 614-469-0939 or contact Ticketmaster (1-800-745,3000,ticketmaster.com).

Photo Credit: Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

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