THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Book by Julian Fellowes, music by George Stiles, lyrics by Anthony Drewe.
The London Palladium, Argyll Street, London W1F 7TF to 9 September 2017.
Mon 7pm. Tues-Sat 7.30pm. Mat Tues & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2 hr 30 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 08444 412 4655.
Review: William Russell 30 June.
Toad in a bit of a hole,
Seen last autumn in Plymouth this latest musical version of Wind and the Willows, the Kenneth Grahame classic about the water rat, the mole, the badger and Mr Toad, has now turned up substantially recast at the Palladium. The book by Julian Fellows gives the Weasels rather more prominence to add some excitement and adds some female characters to make it less all boys together. The songs and lyrics by the reliable Stiles and Drewe are mostly charming, very English, all over the place in style, and performed with the zest one expects from an orchestra in the pit of this theatre, – that is to say very loudly. They are not sung particularly well by the chorus, however, who sound raucous but they are so busy running hither and thither as the animals that live in the Wild Wood breath must be in short supply.
As at Plymouth Rufus Hound plays Mr Toad, and is suitably boastful and brash. Simon Lipkin as Ratty and a younger than usual Mole in Craig Mather provide the eye candy for the little girls and their mums, Gary Wilmot makes an impressively solemn Badger, Neil McDermott does a panto baddie act in style as a with-it tattooed Chief Weasel and there are some tiny children playing field mice to provide the “oooh aren’t they sweet” factor.
Palladium values take away from Edwardian charm of the book and the set – a kind variation on tunnels – never conjures up the countryside. But there is a car, a yellow caravan pulled by a tap dancing pony, a train whose wheels revolve, a barge, a splashing about doing the laundry scene, a boat for Ratty to row and scenery that moves on and off at speed – the stage crew must be exhausted by the end of the night.
There have been many far better versions of the story of Mr Toad and his friends all closer to the spirit of the book, but this summer panto one has been directed with style by Rachel Kavanaugh, the professionalism of the cast and all concerned is manifest, and the sets, albeit hideous in a sub Disney style, do move about. Honk it ain’t. But it will do I suppose.
Mr Toad: Rufus Hound.
Rat: Simon Lipkin.
Mole: Craig Mather.
Chief Weasel: Neil McDermott.
Mrs Otter & Barge Woman: Denise Welch.
Badger: Gary Wilmot.
Portia: Emilie Duleslay.
Swallow,Mouse: Abigail Brodie, Bethany Lindsell.
Swallow, Cheryl Stoat: Rosanna Bates.
Horse: Natalie Woods.
Lester Weasel, Mouse: Joshua Gannon.
Mrs Hedgehog, Gaoler’s daughter: Jenna Boyd.
Mr Hedgehog, Car Driver: James Gant/
Bucky: Evan James.
Magistrate: Adam Vaughan.
Engine Driver: Chris Aukett.
Prison Guard, Sentry Stoat: Ryan Pidgen.
Head Chorister Mouse: Michael Larcombe.
Scared Weasel: Jorell Coffic-Kamall.
Scared Stoat: Nicole Deon.
Children: Lauren Sayers & Luke Amis, Sylvie Erskine & Max Willis, Violet Stokes & Harvey Loaks.
Director: Rachel Kavanagh.
Choreographer: Aletta Collins.
Set & Costume Designer: Peter McKintosh.
Lighting Designer: Howard Harrison.
Sound Designer: Gareth Owen.
Wig & Makeup Designer: Linda McKnight.
Orchestrators: Christopher Jahnke, David Shrubsole.
Musical Director: Toby Higgins.
Fight Director: Kate Waters.