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 Nov. 25, 2014
It's the time of year when we all try to figure out what it is we are thankful for and sometimes it's hard to make a decision. But in the world of sports there are a lot of gifts that we get and we should hold hands and say thank you for players, teams and owners.
Published Nov. 24, 2014
Hard to imagine, but four college chums go through all 37 of Shakespeare's plays in just under two hours. It's a laugh-filled romp onstage at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre that has frat party mixed with the Three Stooges as models.
Published Nov. 23, 2014
"The Wizard of Oz" on stage at the Skylight is a warm and wonderful journey into the Emerald City and beyond. The search for the wizard who can get Dorothy home and a heart, courage and brain for her three friends gets a creative treatment good for the holiday season.
Published Nov. 22, 2014
A 70-year-old play about an imaginary six-foot rabbit delivers laughs, but it also is a lesson about how important friendship really is and how loyalty must withstand every single challenge. There is nothing quite like the friendship between Elwood P. Dowd and his best friend, Harvey the Pooka.
Published Nov. 20, 2014
Scott Walker has until Feb. 19 to decide whether to approve a casino in Kenosha. But that facility would clearly have an impact on Milwaukee's Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, and that would certainly be an added hardship for hundreds of charities in the city.
Published Nov. 18, 2014
In the 121st meeting between the two programs, fireworks are the rule, rather than the exception between the Wisconsin Badgers and Marquette Golden Eagles.
Published Nov. 16, 2014
"Frankenstein" has all of the intensity and drama you'd expect from the creation of a monster, but the pace is relentless and that can wear you out. It would have been helpful to have a little bit of room to breathe and sit back in your seat.
Published Nov. 15, 2014
A. J. Gurney's play is supposed to poke fun at the rich, big business and big religion, but it falls apart in an avalanche of trite liberal talking points. Next Act deserves and normally delivers much better.
Published Nov. 14, 2014
When winter hits local television news stations go nuts with the kind of advice we've heard over and over again. Who doesn't know that you ought to slow down if the roads are covered with snow and ice?
Published Nov. 14, 2014
"The Lion King" has sold out on Broadway for almost 15 years, and they've brought that caliber show to the Milwaukee Theatre. It's a spectacular pageant that's wonderful for the entire family.