Producer, Jamie Hendry, has kindly made the Stiles and Drewe 2017 production of The Wind In The Willows available to stream as a digital productiononline for free, and is asking for kind donations to Acting For Others to support them during the pandemic.
Settling in to watch of an evening, the show provides instant relief and is the perfect remedy. With a book by Julian Fellowes, and George Stiles and Anthony Drewe on music and lyrics respectively, The Wind In The Willows, is a family friendly, feel-good spectacular guaranteed to paint a smile on your face.
Based on the classic 1908 novel, the story follows the sweet, lone Mole (Craig Mather) as he ventures to the riverbank and finds a friend in the welcoming and humorous Ratty (Simon Lipkin) and the soft and motherly Mrs Otter (Denise Welch). Local millionaire, Toad (Rufus Hound) is the epitome of modern-day FOMO; completely obsessed with chasing his next high-speed rush be it from boats, carts or open topped automobiles. That is, until his antics find him endangering his fellow animals and facing time behind bars. Joined by the military-esque Badger (Gary Wilmot), Toad’s friends must rescue him before resident baddie, Chief Weasel (Neil McDermott), and his merry motley crew take over Toad Hall.
Original songs are in abundance and make up over half of the production, timelining the seasons changing and commenting on consumerism (‘Toad’s Escape’), social responsibility (‘The Hedgehog’s Nightmare’) and femininity (‘To Be A Woman’). Ranging from twee choral lines to folksy campfire songs to rock for toddlers, the numbers are versatile and larger than life.
Whilst sat in the warm glow of Mole’s burrow home amidst the wood fire and his collection of keepsakes, ‘A Place To Come Back To’ is soothing and moving. Followed by the gentle ‘The Wassailing Mice’, we learn the values of sharing and being neighbourly, raising a toast to what we are grateful our gratitude. In a time of such uncertainty, where home is the safest place, these are poignant moments.
This is a production that prides itself on English eccentricity. Rufus Hound is an unstoppable ball of energy adorned in garish greens and yellows; his Toad is irresistibly lovable. Our heroes in Ratty, Mole, Badger and Mrs Otter are charming in their British mannerisms polished with politeness, sprinkled with sarcasm and typical idioms delivered with a South Western accent and an air of optimism. The booable bad guys are slick and led by the brilliant Neil McDermott whose weasel has all the grace of an East End gangster. The staging is dynamic and wonderfully tactile, the choreography is defined and highlights a strong ensemble that bring character in every role, and the costumes are creative and imaginative pinpointing the most distinguishable feature of each animal and banking on their ster. On that note, keep an eye out for the hedgehogs - on and off the stage!
The Wind In The Willows is a show about friendship, family and familiarity. There is no better time to dive into the lovely riverbank and set on an adventure.
Stream the show, here - www.willowsmusical.com