I wasn't sure what to expect when I attended the matinee of "WarHorse" at the Vivian Beaumont Theater on Sunday, April 24. The reviews had suggested a miraculous theatrical accomplishment in the context of an illustrated children's novel. And that's definitely what it is. The characters are a bit two-dimensional, the plotting predictable – and predictably tear-jerking at the end – but this is an extraordinary accomplishment in the theatrical arts of staging, choreography, costuming and puppetry, set design and use of projections, sound and light design… The result is quite staggering.
It's a show that one must see despite the plot!
And not least for the stellar acting accomplishments on display, that overcome the limitations of the script to create an emotional connection with the audience. I have nothing but praise for young Seth Numrich, who plays the one role that might be singled out as a leading role – Albert Narracott, the youngster who raises and trains the young colt and ultimately runs off to enlist in World War I to try to find his horse on the battlefield. Running him a close second are the teams of actor/dancers who actually inhabited and animated the horse contraptions (I don't know quite what to call them) that provided the possibility of dramatizing a novel in which horses play a central role. They are real stars. Inhabiting "Joey as a foal" at the performance I attended were Stephen James Anthony, David Pegram, and Leenya Rideout. As "Joey" the adult horse we had the team of Joby Earle, Ariel Heller, and Enrico D. Wey. The other leading horse character, Topthorn, was animated by Alex Hoeffler, Jude Sandy, and Zach Villa. They were all superb, incredibly coordinated, and by the end of the performance, had one fully engaged emotionally with their equestrian characters. Many of the other performers, I thought, did not really transcend their two-dimensional characters, although I was hopeful that Matt Doyle as Billy Narracott would have had more to do, and Peter Hermann as Captain M