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This week in theater: 'War Horse' gallops into Minneapolis

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The National Theatre of Great Britain's production of "War Horse" takes stage at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis this Wednesday in the latest stop on its North American Tour.

Running through June 23, "War Horse" tells a remarkable tale of courage, loyalty and friendship between a young man, Albert, and his beloved horse, Joey -- who is sold to the cavalry and shipped to from England to France in 1914 as the World War I begins.

Unable to forget his faithful companion, Albert, still not old enough to enlist in the service, embarks on a treacherous journey to find Joey and bring him home. critic John Fleming admits in his review of the show last month that while he can't recall any of the 32 actors in the play, he will "never forget the star, Joey."

Fleming writes the incredible and slightly larger than life-size horse puppet "makes the play such an unprecedented spectacle, one in which the people are distinctly second-billed to their ersatz equine colleagues."

Enjoy Ohio lauded the production in a tour stop in Cleveland in April, saying, "magnificent staging and excellent ensemble work seamlessly create a world fraught with the dangers of war."

Arts writer Kerry Clawson is enthralled with the puppeteer work that went into bringing Joey to life, saying, "The 18 puppeteers who operate the horses are the true stars of the show."

"Even though some scenes begin to feel overly long, the puppeteers are so incredible in making the life-sized beasts live, breathe, whinny and even scream, we as audience members become thoroughly invested in their survival," Clawson wrote.

Also opening this week for a six-day run is "Buddy -- The Buddy Holly Story" at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul.

"Buddy" tells the tale of the three years in which Holly became the world’s top recording artist before dying in tragic plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa. Running June 11-16, the show will feature more than 20 of Holly's greatest hits.

Meanwhile, the Guthrie Theater's latest production, "Clybourne Park" continues at the McGuire Proscenium stage.

"Clybourne Park" -- which in 2012 earned playwright Bruce Norris a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award for Best Play -- is a satiric comedy that deals with race and class in response to Lorraine Hansberry’s "A Raisin in the Sun." Beginning in 1959, "Clybourne Park" follows a black family as they move into a white neighborhood in Chicago -- and in the second act takes us to the same house in 2009 as gentrification sets in and the roles are reversed.

Chris Hewitt calls the play an "exemplary production" in his review for the Pioneer Press.

Hewitt also likens "Clybourne Park" to an orchestra performance, saying it it's "a work of art where the 'conductor,' director Lisa Peterson, and the players are so united in their efforts that we hardly notice the dozens of talents who contributed to the production."

The Children’s Theatre Company’s new stage production of the classic Lewis Carroll tale “Alice in Wonderland” ends its run this week in Minneapolis.

Rob Hubbard in his review for the Pioneer Press calls the latest staging of the “one of those rare productions that provide rewards for all ages” and says it’s “clever, colorful fun — that’s appropriately absurd.”

Lisa Brock gives high praise to the production in her Star Tribune review, saying “CTC’s foray into Wonderland sizzles with surprises, from kitchens and tea parties that pop out of the floor to chairs that fly through the air and bottles that mysteriously empty themselves and then vanish altogether.”

The Minneapolis Musical Theatre's production of "Sunset Boulevard" also continues this week at the New Century Theatre in Minneapolis.

Featuring the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, "Sunset Boulevard" tells the story of silent movie star Norma Desmond and her tragic tale of faded glory and unfulfilled ambition.

Ross Raihala gives "Sunset Boulevard" a mixed review in the Pioneer Press, noting the MMT production is scaled down considerably from the Broadway original.

It "strips away all the moving parts and lavish dressings and puts the focus back on the piece itself. It reveals a sometimes charming, if flawed, show that could use a little more glitz," Raihala wrote.

"Sunset Boulevard" runs through June 23.

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