The horse puppets were absolutely spectacular.
And it’s a good thing, because besides the horses – and I know I’m in a real minority here – I felt like I was trapped in the middle of a soap opera for 12-year-olds when "War Horse" opened at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts Tuesday night.
A huge and very appreciative house full of customers warmed, smiled, chuckled, sighed and gasped every time "War Horse" asked them to. I might have been the only one in the whole place who wondered what all the fuss was about.
"War Horse," winner of five Tony awards including Best Play in 2011, has been playing to capacity crowds in London and New York for years. Its national tour does boffo business.
But to me, it was a victory of wonderful, amazing technology instead of a substantive, adult story.
The play is based on the 1982 children’s novel of the same name, written by Michael Morpurgo, a highly acclaimed children’s author.
While the producers of this effort went to great lengths to create a visual panorama that is unmatched in my experience, someone forgot to tell everyone that we also need an adult story if we are going to expect adult people to pay hundreds of dollars to come and see it.
Here’s the story. Boy gets horse. Boy trains horse. Boy falls in love with horse. Horse falls in love with boy. Boy loses horse. Boy begins long search for horse.
I’m not going to tell you how it ends, but it’s pretty easy to guess.
In the middle of this, we have World War I, complete with Bad Germans; Good British; a surprised French maiden; bombs; lightning; dead soldiers and horses; vultures pecking at the dead soldiers and horses; a German traitor; two best-friend horses, one of whom dies from exhaustion; a conversation between a boy and a horse which the horse seems to understand; and music.
Oh, the music.
The music is a vital part of the button-pushing this emotionally manipulative play pushes like an expert.
Huns with Guns? Give us bombastic music with horns, and lots and lots of drums. The boy pledges to the horse, "I’ll find a way to keep you; I’ll pay the debt myself," and we hear a soaring serenade with more strings than a tennis racket. You get the point.
Nobody expects much intellectual effort to be expended when watching this play. The only coin of this realm is EMOTION.
It really works, and I think I know why.
The audience is so stunned by the incredible wizardry of the horse (and goose and bird and vulture) puppets that they don’t really need to pay much attention to the story.
The staging is absolutely gorgeous. The acting is fine. The technology, from the banner on the back wall that changes with every event to the puppets, is something everyone should see. At least once.
I hope this show is a massive hit in Milwaukee because I want first class Broadway tours to keep stopping here.
The only other hope I have is that the next one realizes that there are grownups are in the audience, and their standards are a little higher than your average 12-year-old.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Dave Begel
Published Sept. 18, 2014
The Dale Gutzman version of "Cabaret," which opened Wednesday night and runs through Sept. 28, is a dark retelling of a story that mixed sex, violence, longing and fear into two and half hours of mesmerizing theater. The menace of the play at Off the Wall Theatre is as intimate as any I have seen before.
Published Sept. 18, 2014
How many teams have players in their locker rooms who are in the kind of trouble currently dogging the NFL and that the teams are hiding with fingers crossed that they don't lose a player to suspension?
Published Sept. 18, 2014
Common Ground has an initiative called "Fair Play" that's designed to spark a significant improvement in school and public recreational facilities in Milwaukee County. It's a worthy initiative for the increasingly influential grassroots lobbying organization. But Dave Begel says it's blackmail.
Published Sept. 16, 2014
This has been a difficult week for the National Football League, the most popular sport in the country, by far. And the affairs of Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Roger Goodell have raised a series of questions and which may be difficult to answer, but which deserve our best try at answers.
Published Sept. 15, 2014
Deborah Staples is an actor and an associate artist at the Milwaukee Rep. She is at the absolute top of her game and delivers memorable performances wherever she appears. It would seem that with her career and her family, there would be no room left. However, she has begun to scale a new mountain in her life as she steps behind the footlights to direct her first play.
Published Sept. 14, 2014
Sometimes stepping off the beaten path, or outside of the mainstream, can be fraught with peril but on occasion it can turn into a wonderful surprise and you pat yourself on the back for taking the big step. Such was my reaction after stepping into the deliciously tiny space of Theatre Unchained in order to see the production of "The Addams Family Musical."
Published Sept. 13, 2014
We may not have movie stars like California, oranges like Florida or corn like Iowa, but Wisconsin has a long list of excellent stuff we've given to the rest of the world. Here are the top 13 things that carry the "Made in Wisconsin" tag.
Published Sept. 12, 2014
The little Alchemist Theatre space is one of the real jewels in this city, and it comes alive in an amazing fashion with "Destiny, Deviltry & Dentistry," a hilarious collection of sketches running through Sept. 20.
Published Sept. 11, 2014
Political correctness has intruded on one of the most precious pillars of our government, a pillar that was embraced at the very beginning of this country.
Published Sept. 9, 2014
The Milwaukee Brewers can still run and hit and pitch and throw and catch as well as they ever could, but they aren't doing any of those things even decently now. And I think it's the fault of the manager.