War Horse: Worth Betting On?

Watch out, Equus! Move over, Secretariat!

There's a new horse in town and it's crossing the finish line.

I'm talking about the Lincoln Center production of War Horse, the sprawling drama in which a boy's beloved animal ends up being used in World War I and...

No, the story is not the issue here.

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That turns out to be pretty banal and completely secondary to the theatrics, which make this a blazing event worth galloping uptown for.

Based on the children's book by Michael Morpurgo, the play -- a hit in London -- uses superb projections, well-calculated mood lighting, and, most importantly, master puppeteers who animate the main horse (Joey) and his pals so well that you gasp when they romp past barbed wire and you're outraged when they're abused.

The play is pretty conventional in the expositional Act I, if stronger in Act Two's war-related antics, while the acting is encouraged to be too emphatic and screechy.

But I liked Peter Hermann as a complex German officer -- and of course I loved Joey, who got the night's biggest applause. And the theatrical wizardry? Tony-worthy for sure.

Spielberg's doing the movie version, so naturally Tom Hanks will play the horse and there'll be lots of sweeping orchestral music.

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