After a year and a half run, “War Horse” will close its doors on January 6. The show first opened at the National Theatre in London in 2007, moving to the Broadway scene in April of 2011 at the Vivian Beaumont, Lincoln Center Theater’s Broadway house. The show received very positive reviews, and has continued its successes throughout its run. When the show closes, it will have given over 718 performances, won five Tony Awards, and ranked as one of the top-grossing plays on Broadway.
“War Horse,” most widely known for its use of life-size puppets to depict horses, tells the story of Albert, a British boy, “whose friendship with a horse is tested by World War I.” The Handspring Puppet Company of South Africa created the puppets for the show, winning a Tony Award for their creations. The show won four other Tony Awards, including one for Best Play in 2011. “This harshly beautiful spectacle…offers some of the most astonishing puppetry ever put on stage, which is only one of the elements that may bring tears to your eyes,” said David Finkle of TheatreMania.
Despite its early box office success, “War Horse” has recently been slipping in its numbers. Ticket sales have dipped to 61.8 percent in July and as low as 59.7 percent in early August. Considering the low numbers and their inability to predict the future of the show, the producers and the Lincoln Center Theater decided to close the show. According to The New York Times, Adam Siegel managing director of the Lincoln Center Theater stated, “it’s very expensive and burdensome.” To date, however, the show has grossed over $60 million, landing it among the top-grossing Broadway shows.
This play tells a story, not just of a boy and his horse, but of the changing of the times — the “loss of a generation’s young men.” According to Finkle, it signifies “the end of the old, pre-1914 beliefs and the beginning of a world in which industrialization and technology have acquired the advancing ability to destroy civilization and the planet.”
Currently, “War Horse” is touring the United States, with expected visits to 30 different cities including Dallas, Atlanta, Pittsburg, Des Moines, Seattle, Cincinnati, Ft. Lauderdale, Minneapolis and many more. There are also tours happening in London and Toronto, Canada. A movie version of the story, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Jeremy Irvine as Albert, opened in December and grossed over $14 million just in its opening weekend.
The Vivian Beaumont theatre has not yet chosen a show to replace “War Horse” on their stage. The next Lincoln Center Theater production, “The Nance,” will open in the spring of 2013 at another Broadway theatre. “The Nance” is a Douglas Carter Beane production, and will star Nathan Lane. Broadway is not losing out on the greatness of British theatre, however. According to Matt Trueman of The Guardian, UK, “Matilda: The Musical” will open in March. “Matilda” is a Royal Shakespeare Company production which saw huge success in London’s West End last year.