Magazine article Variety

'Horse' Runs Global Race

Magazine article Variety

'Horse' Runs Global Race

Article excerpt

As last year's Tonys sensation "War Horse" is the latest to point up, a high-profile round of kudos love can help a show become an international brand. With the National Theater now in the midst of the worldwide rollout of its popular equine tale, the increasing benefits and rising demands that can come with global growth provide a case study in the economics of such success.

After bowing at London's National Theater and transferring to the West End - where "War Horse" is in its third year - the show bowed in Gothain at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater. The open-ended run scored six Tonys, including a special kudo for puppet design.

Those two productions have been joined by a sitdown staging in Toronto produced with the Mirvishes. Meanwhile, demand for a U.S. tour, currently in rehearsal and produced with Bob Boyett and NETworks, has proven so strong that an additional performance has already been added to the opening week in Boise, Idaho, in June.

Mother production opens in Melbourne in December, before touring Australia, South Asia and China. And 2013 wifi see not only a U.K. tour, but also the show's first non-Englishlanguage production (the first in the National's history) kicking off in Berlin.

All of this represents a boon to the not-forprofit National's coffers. The West End production alone, produced solely by the National, yields £3.5 million ($5.5 million) per year, which is plowed back into the organization. This more than covers the theater's progressive three-year cut in annual support from government funding arm Arts Council England.

Yet the growth of "War Horse" as a brand brings with it increased workload - hence a newly employed, dedicated team of 12, with expertise in fields including marketing and duction management, all overseen by National exec director Nick Starr.

"The show's box office appeal, certainly in London, is like that of a musical, but its costs are like a big play," Starr says.

That's a typical British understatement: show has a cast of 35. "But the stars are the puppets," Starr insists. "Although we are people well - certainly at the upper level of what you might be paying for this kind of - we're not paying star rates."

In total, he reckons the cost for a North American production is around $6 million (compared with a mid-scale tuner like "Spring Awakening," which reportedly cost roughly $8 million).

As expected, the original créatives are also benefiting from the success. …

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