PHOENIX - The Tony Award winning play War Horse opened this week in Phoenix. It's based on a children's novel published in Great Britain in 1982. Steven Spielberg turned it into a Oscar-nominated movie in 2011. The show is headed to Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Tampa this spring.
"It's unlike anything I think any of us as a cast has ever worked on," said Actor Rob Laqui.
Meet Joey-a 120-pound puppet made of cane and steel.
"Chuck someone on top of it, and it can weigh anywhere up to 300 pounds," said Actor Danny Beiruti.
The show tells the story of a boy and his horse thrust into World War I and the challenges they face as they struggle to survive. The actors, meanwhile, faced their own challenges, rehearsing for their roles.
"It's such an epic show and the puppetry is a whole other thing," said Actor Mike Heslin.
Each performer was put through a two week boot camp, where they learned the inner workings of their epic equine and how to make the horse's actions appear smooth and authentic.
"We have to really just constantly be listening to each other not only with our ears but with every part of our body," Laqui said. "Something that the head does, I can feel all the way back."
The production features four full horses, designed to look and behave like the real thing.
"We trot, we walk, the tail flicks, the tail moves in different ways, the ears flick independently," Beiruti said. "We rear up in the horse. We are really representing a horse."
War Horse is the winner of five Tony Awards, including best play, but the actors say what makes the show unique is how audiences see them bring the horses to life.
"Sometimes it's instantaneous, sometimes, it's five minutes, sometimes it's 20 minutes or the whole first act, but eventually, by the end of the show, every single person in that audience sees a real horse on stage," said Actor Derek Stratton. "It's just a beautiful, beautiful thing."
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