Theatre Review: THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS – The Lowry, Salford

Rufus Hound as Mr Toad in THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS. Photo by Marc Brenner. ® Jamie Hendry Productions

Rufus Hound in THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS. Photo: Marc Brenner. ® Jamie Hendry Productions

Lively, fun and charming, THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS musical breathes new life into Grahame’s iconic story

Kenneth Grahame’s much-loved classic THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS has been given a new lease of life in a brand-new musical adaption by the creative team behind MARY POPPINS.

Based on the 1908 novel, THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS tells the story of four woodland creatures – Ratty, Badger, Mole and Mr Toad – as they embark on a series of adventures and misadventures caused by Mr. Toad’s insatiable need for speed.

Adapted for stage by DOWNTON ABBEY creator Julian Fellowes, THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS is a beautifully constructed musical with lashings of charm. Fellowes breathes new life into Grahame’s iconic story, honoring all of its iconic moments while also giving it a fresh and contemporary edge.

The action takes place on the simple river banks of the willows with Peter McKintosh’s picturesque set cleverly moving from Mole’s messy hole to the grandeur of Toad Hall. The set has a mystical aura to it, bringing the magical story to life, while the simple yet effective costume design is both effective and pleasing on the eye.

As expected from a musical with duo George Stiles and Anthony Drewe at the helm, music is most definitely at the forefront of this production. Their glorious original score is bold, inventive and incredibly catchy and boasts a mash-up of musical styles that is sure to appeal to everyone. From the cheery SPRING and the beautiful ballad A PLACE TO COME BACK TO to the hip-hop/rap THE AMAZING MR TOAD and the 70s glam rock TAKING OVER THE HALL, all of the songs are toe-tappingly good and do an effective job at moving the plot along at a steady pace.

Neil McDermott and company in THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS. Photo: Marc Brenner. ® Jamie Hendry Productions

Neil McDermott and company in THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS. Photo: Marc Brenner. ® Jamie Hendry Prod

THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS is performed by a large ensemble cast, all of whom are excellent at breathing life into the smaller characters. Fra Fee as Mole and Thomas Howes as Ratty are charming as their rodent counterparts, the endearing bond between them increasing as the story develops. Neil McDermott is equally excellent as Chief Weasel, leading his woodland critters (a scurry of weasels, foxes and stoats dressed in pinstripe suits) into the fabulous musical number TAKING OVER THE HALL with an undercurrent of funk.

But the star of the show is undoubtedly Rufus Hound as the thrill-seeking, lovable menace Mr Toad. Hound may not have the best singing voice but his quick wit and shouty affability quickly wins over the hearts of the audience, his performance working best when he’s being silly.

Whether you’re seven or 70, the neat overall narrative and old-fashioned charm of the THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS is sure to leave you with a smile on your face. A sparkling new musical that makes for good, clean, family fun.

(4 / 5)

THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS runs at The Lowry until 6 November

About Donna

Donna is the Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she is a digital marketing whizz, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage, The Public Reviews and ScreenRelish. Loves Shakespeare, prosecco and Formula 1