Water for Elephants Review: Fabulous Under the Big Top

Her ears float like ginkgo leaves first. From behind a screen, her shadow appears and her trumpet sounds amazing. 


Her disembodied trunk, which sniffs for friends, foes, and food, arrives next. At the end of Act I of the new musical “Water for Elephants,” Rosie, the circus star, is huge as a bus and batting her lovely eyes.


This stunning 20-minute sequence is just one of many miracles at the Imperial Theater, where “Water for Elephants” opened Thursday. 


After all, Rosie is not alive and prone to harm. She is not a CGI. You can see the puppeteers controlling and inhabiting her, 


 thus she is not a deception. She is human imagination, including ours as viewers.


I love being treated so well by a brand-extension musical, which is usually craftless and cynical. At its best, “Water for Elephants” resembles circus arts more than Broadway. 


It has an engaging plot, intriguing characters, and stirring music by seven-man indie folk band PigPen Theater Co. Jessica Stone's brilliant, emotive film opens with movement, beauty, and astonishment.


Given the setting, that makes sense. The musical's written by Rick Elice, based on the 2011 film and Sara Gruen's 2006 novel, is set in a Depression-era circus. Jacob Jankowski (Grant Gustin) climbs aboard a train to “Anywhere” to escape a sadness we hear about later. Because the train carries the failing Benzini Brothers, it's going everywhere—downhill and fast.


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Thanks for   watching