James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

War Horse fails to get out of starting gate in tough market

Five-time Tony Award-winning show  War Horse  has been scratched from its New Zealand run. Photo / Dean Purcell
Five-time Tony Award-winning show War Horse has been scratched from its New Zealand run. Photo / Dean Purcell

The stage show War Horse has scrapped its Auckland season, blaming high costs, a competitive market, sluggish ticket sales and even a long summer.

The five-time Tony Award-winning show, which mixes life-size puppetry and actors, was scheduled to run for four weeks at the Aotea Centre's ASB Theatre from the end of August after stints in Sydney and Brisbane.

But Australian company Global Creatures, which teamed with Britain's National Theatre to bring the show to Auckland, has decided to cancel the New Zealand season, citing a lack of commercial viability.

Global Creatures chief executive Carmen Pavlovic said she was sorry that Auckland audiences would not have the chance to see War Horse, which is based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo and has also been adapted into a movie directed by Steven Spielberg.

"It has become clear that it is no longer commercially viable to transfer the show to New Zealand in what is a very competitive market," she said.

Ms Pavlovic said previous productions that included Walking with Dinosaurs and How to Train Your Dragon had been "enormously successful" and Auckland remained a "key touring city" for future shows.

The show's publicist, Bridget de Launay, said the sales of tickets, which ranged from $49 to premium tickets that started at $110, were "below expectations".

"And I think there were a few other contributing factors: it's become quite a competitive market and [with] the extended summer I think a lot of people were focused on being outdoors and were not looking at indoor pursuits that early."

Aucklanders are spoiled for choice with shows and had the season of War Horse gone ahead it would have, in its final week, gone up against Broadway show Wicked, which starts in September.

Magic show The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible starts later this month while Disney on Ice: Princesses & Heroes starts in early June.

Ms de Launay said buyers who had bought tickets to the show, which was scheduled to start on August 20, would get a full refund.

Spoiled for choice

What War Horse was up against:
*The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible (May 22 to June 2)
*Disney on Ice: Princesses & Heroes (June 1-3)
*Slava's Snowshow (July 10-14)
*Stomp 13 (August 6-11)
*Wicked: The Musical (September 17 to October 13)James Ihaka

- NZ Herald

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