With the Cast of “War Horse”

Wonka and Charlemagne

I saw several drunken horses—real horses!—stumbling out of P.J. Clarke’s last Sunday night after the Tony Awards. “Humans kid themselves that they can drink like horses,” slurred Rojo, a standby for “War Horse.” “But we put your breed in its place tonight.”

Moments later, two others on a carrot break joined in. Charlemagne and Wonka, who play “Joey” and “Topthorn,” assented: “We just knew we were going home with the big prize tonight.” (“War Horse” took six Tonys back to the stable, including one for best play.) “We had to celebrate proper. We’ve drunk maybe twelve bottles of JD between the two of us.” All three snorted and stomped.

The horses generally get along with the human cast members, said Wonka. “There’s a bit of tension over the different unions”—horses are covered by Actors Equinety—“so there are small differences in how management treats us.” (Horses get extra physical therapy but have to attend promo events for the breakfast TV shows.)

The horses were also deemed ineligible by the Tony nominating committee, which upset Charlemagne: “The same thing happened in England. We’re on the bloody poster! We deserve awards! Typical steedism.”

Charlemagne was the only import from the original London production. “British Equinety has an arrangement with American Equinety, so I got to come over with the show. They were having trouble finding an American horse with my emotional range and physical commitment.” As part of his contract, Charlemagne gets imported feed and is met by a luxury trailer each night at the stage door.

Not all of the “War Horse” gang was prancing about with Tony fever. Frito (“Young Joey”) had gone back to Jersey mid-celebration. “My parents knew that it was an exciting night,” he told me in a phone interview. “But I’m still in elementary school and had to make Monday morning galloping class in Ridgewood.” Frito went on to say that “New Jersey Transit is very accommodating to horses—I get to stand in the back with the luggage and listen to Dave Matthews on my iPod. Plus all the posters for the show mean I’m kind of a celebrity.” I could practically hear him blushing over the phone.

All the equines I spoke with are hoping for career bumps from “War Horse.” “Bernie Telsey called me about ‘Wicked’ the other day,” said Rojo. “They are looking to cast a horse as Fiyero. It would attract tween ponies.” Charlemagne is in talks with the producers of “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.” “We think there’s some potential for non-traditional casting—I believe modern audiences are really ready for a ‘Bengal Horse at the Baghdad Zoo.’ We’ve broken down so many old prejudices. The hay ceiling is about to collapse.”

Until then, these horses are stampeding through “War Horse” eight times a week. Enjoy the show, but don’t expect an autograph. Wonka: “I’ve stopped stamping Playbills because the silver glitter Sharpie irritates my cuticles. I need to be in top shape for the play – it’s my #1 priority these days. Well, that and finding a cute mare.”


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