‘The Wind in the Willows – The Musical’ is a new West End stage version of the much loved children’s book. Brought to life by Oscar-winning screenwriter and creator of Downton Abbey Julian Fellowes and Olivier-award winning composer and lyricist George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, and starring Rufus Hound as Mr Toad, it’s a faithful but exciting interpretation.
I took my daughter Iris along to see it. She’s eight and loves singing, dancing and staying up late, so it was a perfect fit.
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with The Wind in the Willows. On one hand, I love it’s charm, nostalgia and general niceness – ideas of sticking by friends even when they do the wrong thing, helping each other in times of need, and also the slow moving, relaxed pace of it all. On the other, I can help but feel it’s a bit of a missive on class – the weasels and stoats representing a working class rabble trying to upset the established system and overthrow the pompous, but for some reason widely loved Mr Toad. Proletariat vs. aristocracy and all that… anyway, maybe that’s for another time.
The show was beautiful. It really was a treat for the eyes from start to finish – the set was just lovely and made you feel like you were there with them, lazily making your way down the river with Mole and Rat. The songs were great (Iris was actually familiar with a few of them because they have sung some in school, apparently), and the actors were all excellent – lots of adorable woodland creatures scampering around, as well as some rather scary 1920s gangster style stoats and weasels! I loved the representation of the different animals – the foxes as toffs, with their top hats (going for a fox hunt maybe?!), the hedgehogs as scouts – all very endearing.
Rufus Hound was unwell on the night that we went so we had his stand-in who was performing the show for the first time. He was great though – Toad is, of course, one of the highlights of the show and stopped it being too twee and self-indulgent. He was really fun, and Iris thought he was brilliant. It was also very sweet to see how relieved he was it had gone well when the cast came on at the end.
All in all, we really enjoyed it and Iris said it was the best thing she’d ever seen (until the next thing she sees), but I did wonder how much mass appear it would have – it is a little slow and doesn’t have the wow factor of something like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Matilda. Still it impressed Iris, and that’s the main thing!
The Wind in the Willows runs until September. For more information and to book, visit www.windinthewillowsthemusical.com