October 18, 2012     James Knapp

Music Can Make the Theater


     Last night, I had the amazing experience of seeing the National Broadway Tour of War Horse at the Boston Opera House. The Boston Opera House boasts some stunning architecture and reminds me of the grand houses that I have seen on a variety of choir tours through Europe. As the opera house features both French and Italian designs, one feels as if they are on a guided tour through Europe when attending a performance there!

     Now back to the play! War Horse, winner of five 2011 Tony Awards (including Best Play), is a monumental piece of theater with one of the most amazing technical productions I have ever seen. It is a beautiful story of a devoted friendship between a boy and his horse and the journey from separation to being reunited on the battlefields of France in World War I. The horses on stage are remarkable mechanical puppets that are performed with such precision and artistry by actors that you completely forget that they are not living breathing beasts of beauty. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience.

     One of the most powerful things about this piece of theater was the music that was part of the production. It was quintessentially British with sweeping melodies evoking the sumptuous string sounds of Ralph Vaughan Williams and Edward Elgar. The music helps paint the pictures of the English Countryside, the dramatic battles and the heroic military efforts of the liberation of Europe. In addition to the classical style of music, they integrated the great tradition of folk music, army songs and simple tunes of the British landscapes. The juxtaposition of styles was a stroke of genius and enhanced the drama at every level. I loved every minute of it!

The arts, when as deftly integrated as they were in War Horse, can lead you through such an empowering journey, and this production was nothing short of stunning. If this show is coming near you, don't walk; run to the box office for tickets!

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