It seems like an almost impossible task, to turn a children's novel about horses and warfare into a stage play aimed primarily at adults.
But "War Horse" has turned into one of the most acclaimed plays of recent years. Its London run that started in 2007 received a slew of awards, and when it moved to Broadway in 2011 it won six Tony Awards including Best Play. It also took the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards for Outstanding Play. Reviews were almost uniformly enthusiastic. In 2011, the novel was also adapted into a popular film by Steven Spielberg.
Local audiences will get their first chance to see the play when the national tour comes to the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa for eight performances starting April 30.
The story has to do with a British boy whose beloved horse is sold to the army at the beginning of World War I. He lies about his age and enlists in the army to try to find his horse and bring him home to safety.
Critics in America and England have praised the play for its warmth and its depiction of war. But it's the stagecraft, especially the life-sized puppets, that have drawn the most attention. Some people have noted that the puppetry is so impressive it outshines the story and the actors.
Details: April 30-May 5, Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa. Show times: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $44.50 plus service charge and up. Information: www.strazcenter.org or 813-229-7827.
-- Marty Clear