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'War Horse' makes dashes for Tonys and Oscars

March 14, 2011 | 12:45 pm

War Horse

"War Horse" is about to become that rare contender that gallops into two award derbies in one year: the Tonys and Oscars.

Tuesday marks the first preview performance of the stage drama about a boy who risks the dangers of World War I to rescue his horse that's been hauled off to serve in the cavalry. It opens on Broadway at the Vivian Beaumont Theater on April 14. On Dec. 28, a film version produced and directed by Oscar magnet Steven Spielberg debuts in movie houses, certain to be a major Oscars contender. "War Horse" is the first "serious" (nonblockbuster) movie that Spielberg has directed since "Munich," which was nominated for best picture of 2005.

The innovative stage production of "War Horse," which mixes actors with puppeteers, originated in 2007 at the National Theatre in London, where it won the Evening Standard, Critics' Circle and Laurence Olivier awards for set design, plus an Olivier Award for choreography. Clearly, it's now being positioned for awards on this side of the Atlantic.

Nick Stafford's adaptation of the book by Michael Morpurgo is being co-produced on Broadway by the National Theatre in league with Lincoln Center. Both the U.K. and U.S. productions are directed by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, with "horse choreography" by Toby Sedgwick.

Below, a preview of the West End production. Above, a photo of the film version.

-- Tom O'Neil

Photo: Jeremy Irvine in "War Horse" (DreamWorks)