APPLETON - The star of the Broadway hit War Horse made a special appearance at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in Appleton Tuesday.
On stage, he's known as Joey, but behind the scenes, it takes three people to make the huge horse puppet work.
Meet Joey, the star of the Broadway hit War Horse. Joey is actually an eight-foot tall, ten-foot long hand-made puppet.
Christopher Mai controls the head.
"This is the first time that an actual animal is the focus and the main character of a show," said Mai, War Horse puppeteer.
Inside the 120-pound frame, Harlan Bengel and Rob Laqui use levers to control Joey's heart and hind.
"It's a challenge, but as you go along, you really get in sync. You breathe together, you learn to move together," said Bengel, War Horse puppeteer.
"You can't sort of zone off, you can't sort of dial it in. You're constantly part of a team that is relying on you, and that you rely on as well," said Laqui, War Horse puppeteer.
Joey is very inquisitive.
"It's amazing how they can take three people put together this puppet that literally becomes a real horse before your eyes," said Tara Brzozowski, Fox Cities Performing Arts Center director of marketing and public relations.
The puppeteers have trained together for five months. Four teams rotate puppeteer duty to keep Joey fresh.
"The scale, the scope, the features are so accurate to what you're going to see with a real horse. It's theater magic," said Brzozowski.
War Horse is a powerful story of a young boy's horse Joey, sold to the English army during World War I, and the boy's mission to bring his horse home.
"Joey doesn't speak like a human, but through his eyes, and his movements, you connect with him," said Brzozowski.
So how realistic is Joey? An "expert" was brought in for a "special" meet and greet.
"When the horse people come to see the show, people that have experience with horses. They come up afterwards and they say wow. The nuance of what horse behavior encompasses, you really got, that's such a huge compliment," said Laqui.
So does the horse make it?
You'll have to find out for yourself.
War Horse runs for eight shows starting Tuesday, June 25 through June 30.
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