Water for elephants a new musical (review)

Water for Elephants

(Critique en français : Cliquez ici)

Based On The Novel By: Sara GRUEN

Director: Jessica STONE

Book: Rick ELICE

Lyrics and music: PigPen Theatre Co.

Co-choreographer: Shana CARROLL and Jesse ROBB 

Circus designer: Shana CARROLL

Lightning designer: Bradley KING



At Imperial Theatre

’til February 2, 2025

« Ladies and Gentlemen and children of all ages, welcome to the most extravagant extravaganza the human eye can behold! Welcome the stars of the Benzini Brothers’ Most Spectacular Show on Earth! » Alphonse’s petulant introduction could be applied to the new Broadway musical Water for elephants.

The atmosphere, the choice of colors, accessories and materials all combine to create an anthological recreation. The scent of roasted peanuts, candy apples and cotton candy will come to mind.
We feared that some of the novel’s essential elements would be difficult to transcribe to the stage. We were wrong: from the train crossing the United States to the setting up of the big top, everything is done with ingenuity. The scenography is perfect. The long-awaited arrival of the circus animals is not overlooked either. And if the official visuals don’t show them, it’s undoubtedly to maintain the magical effect of their appearance. More than puppets, the menagerie is one with the acrobats in a clever and unexpectedly aesthetic osmosis. It’s not the star of the musical, the elephant Rosie, who is no less impressive, but her successor, the horse Silver Star, magnificently played by Antoine BOISSEREAU. It’s no wonder that Marlena and Silver Star were the first stars of the Benzini circus, when you’re faced with the virtuosity and celestial poetry of each of the animal’s appearances. Silver Star reaches the firmament and touches our hearts.

But the use of circus numbers doesn’t stop at the moments that tell the story of the performances in the booklet. Any movement is a pretext for juggling, jumping, clowning or flying. Proof of this is provided by the visually successful planting of the stakes in the mass of the big top.
We’d expect nothing less from the famous circus company The 7 Fingers, whose performances we’ve already enjoyed more than our fair share of shows around the world.
As for Rosie, her entrance on stage is long overdue. She plays up the suspense by delaying her full appearance. Attribute by attribute, again magnificently rendered by the cast, her full appearance provokes cheers from the audience.
This is how Water for Elephants pays homage to the novel: by integrating the audience into its own role without really breaking the mature fourth. Brilliant!
Still, some aspects of the novel are a little skimmed over, and some characters split into one, as in the case of August and Uncle Al. But it’s hard to cram so much detail into a 2.5-hour show.

The other two stars of the show are Grant GUSTIN and Isabelle McCALLA. The former’s entrance on stage is lunar, on his scale, where grace and the spectacular are once again the order of the day in a suspended moment. The voice we knew him for in Sebastian, the character he played in the TV series Glee, is even more unsane in Water for Elephants. As for Isabelle McCALLA, in addition to her piercing voice, she delights us perched on a trapeze. Indeed, here, the division between the artistic specialties of each is notable. All are singers, dancers, actors and circus artists. Water for Elephants is not just a musical show! Water for Elephants is not just a circus show. It’s a fusion of the two.

The soundtrack is full of rhythm, giving rise to rhythmic choreography alternating between contemporary circus specialties such as Chinese mast, Cyr wheel, aerial silks and more. We’re on a unique country-jazz trend. A choice of musical mix in keeping with the historical context.
Ultra-reflective light washes over the performers. The ensemble numbers follow on from one another and never resemble one another. As always, they combine acrobatics and dance in a panoply of exhilarating movements.

Let’s hope the train crosses the Atlantic so Europeans can enjoy the show too. In the meantime, fans can look forward to an album currently being recorded (coming soon to www.ghostlightrecords.com).

Water for Elephants will take your head to the stars!



The critically acclaimed bestselling novel WATER FOR ELEPHANTS comes to vivid life on Broadway in a unique, spectacle-filled new musical.

After losing what matters most, a young man jumps a moving train unsure of where the road will take him and finds a new home with the remarkable crew of a traveling circus, and a life—and love—beyond his wildest dreams. Seen through the eyes of his older self, his adventure becomes a poignant reminder that if you choose the ride, life can begin again at any age.

Directed by Tony Award®️ nominee Jessica Stone (Kimberly Akimbo), with a book by three-time Tony nominee Rick Elice (Jersey Boys, Peter and the Starcatcher) adapted from Sara Gruen’s novel, and a soaring score by the acclaimed PigPen Theatre Co.WATER FOR ELEPHANTS unites innovative stagecraft with the very best of Broadway talent in an authentic and deeply moving new musical that invites us all to give ourselves to the unknown.








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