‘War Horse’ good story; puppeteers star as horses

2014-04-08 10.55.38

“War Horse” is a fast moving, suspenseful play, with a side of humor.

The play at the Orpheum Theatre in Omaha focuses on the lead character Albert and his horse, Joey.

Joey the colt is purchased by Albert’s father, who really can’t afford to buy the colt. But he has a sibling rivalry with his brother, who was also interested in buying the colt.

The majority of the first act is Albert’s budding relationship with Joey. As a timid colt, Joey is reluctant to warm to Albert. But, the farm boy does his best to get Joey to accept him. He starts gaining his trust with a bucket of oats.

As the colt grows, their relationship strengthens. Eventually, Joey grows into a horse.

As the first act nears its end, World War I starts. Albert’s father sells Joey to the British army.

Joey and Albert

The second act covers the war front and Albert’s parents at home. Albert joins the army, so he can search for his horse.

Albert loses friends and a cousin during the war. But, anyone who has read the book or seen the movie, knows Albert’s love for Joey will persevere.

While the acting was good, a couple of things stood out to my daughter Mallory and me.

First, Michael Wyatt Cox was a strong player as Albert.

The actor portraying his father – Gene Gillette – made that character real to me. The character was a mean person to his son and Joey. Gillette played it well.

Andrew May as German army Capt. Fredrick Mueller may have done the best job overall. He took what should have been a ruthless, hateful character and made him sympathetic. In the end, you rooted for Mueller, who had taken a Red Cross member’s identity to avoid fighting on the front. His love for Joey and Topthorne, another horse, was legitimate.

While the actors were easily recognizable, the true stars in our view were the puppeteers.

They made the audience think of Joey as a real horse. You could see them working the puppets controls through the horse, but they made it look real.

They had the natural movements of a horse down solid. The puppets moved as real horses would. Mallory mentioned that the puppeteer handling the horse’s head actually appeared as if he was leading the horse and caressing him.

I mentioned afterward that the horse sounds the puppeteers probably made as kids actually paid off for a job.

Adult Joey was portrayed by Danny Yoerges, Adam Cunningham and Dayna Tietzen.


The use of a ripped sheet of paper as a backdrop on stage was cool. It was a screen, where additional scenes were played during the show. In example, as the horse cavalry rode into battle, penciled art work showed on the back drop showing bombs launched, bursting. Then, in a critical scene at the end of the first act, a fence line.

The 2.5-hour performance was so intense to watch that you didn’t realize time flew by. More than 1,900 people attended opening night.

I checked TicketOmaha and did find they have a few tickets remaining for the show’s run now through Sunday. If interested, please visit www.OmahaTicket.com.

I recommend seeing War Horse. I’m interested in seeing it again. That’s how good it was to me.

Disclaimer: Thank you to the Omaha Performing Arts for the complimentary tickets. All comments, opinions and views are mine.