The Wind In The Willows
★★★★ Utterly Charming!
Review By Caroline Hanks-Farmer
A new West End production opened this week in one of the most prestigious theatres in London, the show was The Wind In The Willows. Previously touring, it’s now hit London for a limited run at the London Palladium.
In December 2011, Jamie Hendry revealed that he had commissioned a musical adaptation of the 1908 novel The Wind in the Willows with a book by Julian Fellowes and music and lyrics to be penned by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. The trio first worked together on the West End and Broadway musical Mary Poppins, and then again on the revised version of Half a Sixpence. The Wind In the Willows also sees the trio reunited with Half A Sixpence’s director Rachel Kavanaugh. With design by Peter McKintosh, choreography by Aletta Collins, lighting by Howard Harrison and sound by Gareth Owen, The Wind In The Willows now has a limited London season.
I’ve recently read the following quote “If we experienced life through the eyes of a child, everything would be magical and extraordinary. Let our curiosity, adventure and wonder of life never end”. This production of The Wind In The Willows epitomizes this premise. A chance to find your inner child and not to look too deeply, is exactly the right frame of mind to enjoy this show. Its colourful, it’s fun and requires no heavy thought process. Through a childs eyes is how The Wind In The Willows should be viewed.
Take a trip down the riverbank to visit Rat (Simon Lipkin), Mole (Craig Mather), Mrs Otter (Denise Welch) the indestructible Mr Toad (Rufus Hound) and wise Mr Badger (Gary Wilmot). This star-studded affair will make you smile with its charm and endearment. Mather and Lipkin take you on the journey to rediscover Mole’s home. Along the way, they try to get selfish larger than life Toad (Rufus Hound) to see the error of his ways. Of course we have the resident baddies in the Weasels and Stoats which are led by Chief Weasel Neil McDermott. A definite “spiv” every pore oozes a wrong doing against his fellow riverbank inhabitants. I simply loved his character. Wise Badger Gary Wilmot showed his musical star provenance as did Lipkin and Mather. Whilst Rufus Hound gave Toad the larger than life character he rightly deserves. In my mind Hound was perfectly cast.
There was sufficient characterisation for the cast not to be in full body costumes and because of this they were able to develop and move as the animals they portrayed more convincingly. I particularly enjoyed the Scout Hedgehog family. They were simply adorable when illustrating how hard it is for them to cross the road. The three Swallows were also a highlight for me when they sang their enchanting song. There are some beautiful harmonies and some catchy numbers which gave for a very enjoyable evening’s entertainment.
A wholesome family musical to be enjoyed by all age groups, simply perfect for over the summer holidays.