Generally, Alex Morf plays a young British lad named David, occasionally a young feisty foal named Joey, but during four matinee and evening performances Dec. 15 and 16, the Mount Vernon native will step into the lead role of Albert in “War Horse.”
The first national tour of Broadway’s 2011 Tony-winning Best Play is charging toward the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines for eight performances Tuesday to Dec. 16.
“We all have to be a jack-of-all-trades,” Morf, 32, now based in Manhattan, says by phone from the show’s current tour stop in East Lansing, Mich. “I play the role of the best friend of the main character, but I also understudy about six roles, including the lead, which I’ll be going on for in Iowa.”
Aside from the fact that family and friends will be in the audience, he feels an extra synergy between the play and his home state.
“Albert is a young boy who grows up on the English countryside. That’s one of the reasons I’m really excited to bring it to Iowa,” he says. “It’s really about people who live in and around farm land.”
- “War Horse“
- Civic Center of Greater Des Moines, 221 Walnut St.
- Dec. 11 to 16; 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 2:00 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 1:00 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday
- Tickets: $45 to $90
- Info: Civic Center Box Office, Ticketmaster outlets, 1-(800) 745-3000 or CivicCenter.org
- Extra: Alex Morf and musical friends from the show will play a bluegrass concert to benefit the Mount Vernon High School theater program, 8 p.m. Dec. 17, Cornell College theater complex
- Review: ‘War Horse’ is magnificent theatrical achievement
Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 best-selling book inspired the play, which opened in London in 2007, and in turn, inspired Steven Spielberg’s 2011 film.
It’s the story of young Albert, who receives a foal from his father. Albert raises the horse he names Joey. They develop such a strong bond that when Joey is sold to toil for the arduous World War I effort, Albert sets out to find his beloved friend and bring him home.
“It’s really a story about hope against the greatest odds,” Morf says, “and also a story about human beings’ relationships with animals. It’s a really special bond that anybody who’s had a pet or a relationship with a horse or any kind of animal, knows.
“One of the things I love about it — it’s a show that people can see and identify with and love in all parts of the country. We’ve played in the heart of San Francisco and the heart of Dallas … and everywhere we go, people react really strongly to this play. It’s a special thing to be a part of, and it’s going to be really special to bring it to my home.”
The puppets have been hailed as mechanical and emotional marvels wherever the show has traveled. Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones of Handspring Puppet Company in South Africa — the men behind the artistry — were lauded with a special Tony award for their work.
Each horse takes three people to spring to life. They are halfway through their yearlong tour.
It’s an ensemble effort, many rotating in and out of the physically and mentally demanding animal roles.
“The horses are the stars of the show, make no mistake, and they should be,” Morf says. “But, the horses wouldn’t be as interesting without the stories of the human interactions, and likewise, we wouldn’t be as interesting without the horses, so we really try to work together to tell the story.
“It’s a story that really deserves being told …” he says. “It’s been interesting for me, because my grandfather fought in World War I. It’s been neat to get to research the period, because it’s a war that’s often forgotten, especially by Americans. It’s a unique piece of history that still holds a lot of resonance today.”