Touring – reviewed at Mayflower Theatre, Southampton
Transferring to the London Palladium from 14 June 2017
Guest reviewer: Sarah Miatt
The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Graeme’s beloved family tale of the riverbank has delighted readers young and old for over a century. The story of Ratty, Mole and the severe Mr Badger and their mission to save the notorious Mr Toad from himself is a timeless classic enjoyed by all.
Julian Fellowes book for this brand new musical version was full of pace and excitement. The music and lyrics by popular duo Stiles and Drewe were full of beautiful harmonies and rousing chorus numbers as well as both touching and humorous numbers for smaller groups. Aletta Collins choreography was exciting and so fitting for each individual animal.
The show was visually spectacular with excellent use of an impressive set. The costumes were a particular highlight with the animals dressed like humans but with enough animal characteristics that you could tell exactly who they were. It was somewhat amusing to see the foxes dressed as fox hunters and having the otters dressed in Edwardian bathing suits was a lovely touch. On the whole the show was vibrant and colourful with plenty to look at.
The cast were outstanding. They worked so well together with slick dance moves and swift, clear dialogue. Particular highlights from the supporting cast were the swallows with their beautiful number “One Swallow does not a Summer Make” , the family of Hedgehogs with their comical number “The Hedgehogs Nightmare” and the Horses with their happy gentle tap dancing during “The Open Road”.
Of the principal cast Holly Willock as Portia the Otter Pup in her professional debut was adorably mischievous and perfectly cast. Sophia Nomvete as her mother Mrs Otter was wonderful. With some truly impressive facial expressions, she lit up the stage whenever she appeared.
Thomas Howe as Rat was smart, nimble and just the right level of pompous whilst Fra Fee as Mole was kind, gentle and his singing was a joy to hear. David Birrell was an imposing character as father of all forest creatures Mr Badger and Neil McDermott as Chief Weasel was slimy and sleazy and the perfect villain of the piece.
However, the show belonged to Rufus Hound as the speed obsessed, spoiled Mr Toad and quite rightly so. He was hilariously funny, full of energy, self-importance and delighted with every moment on stage.
This is a wonderful show perfect for all the family. It’s exciting and full of fun. Well worth going to see.