During these uncertain times, it is great to see so much theatre being broadcasted for free for people to enjoy, with one of the shows being The Wind In The Willows. After watching the production live at The Lowry back in 2016, I was excited to see the pre-recorded version from the London Palladium’s production.
The show’s opening song ‘Spring’ is absolutely stunning and introduces us to the anthropomorphic characters who are all busying about their daily lives across the stage. The costumes and set of this piece are stunning and varied, from squirrels with big bushy tails, to hedgehogs with huge spikes. From scenes set on the riverbank, to being on the ‘Open Road,’ in a large caravan. The show also contrasts with beautiful colourful big ensemble numbers such as this one, ‘The Amazing Mr Toad,’ and ‘The Wild Wooders’ with more delicate and intricate songs, such as ‘One Swallow Does Not a Summer Make,’ ‘Autumn’ and ‘The Wassailing Mice.’
We are introduced to Mole, portrayed by Craig Mather, Ratty, portrayed by Simon Lipkin, Toad of Toad Hall, portrayed by Rufus Hound, Badger, portrayed by Gary Wilmot and Mrs Otter, played by Denise Welch. Ratty and Mole make the perfect duo, and sing a lovely song entitled ‘Messing About in a Boat,’ and, accompanied by Badger, ‘A Friend is Still A Friend.’ Lipkin’s comic timing as Ratty is exceptional throughout the piece.
Mr Toad is seen throughout the show to always be wanting to have the next best motorcar, (poop poop!) and is then arrested for reckless driving. He escapes from prison with the help of a washerwoman, which leads to the funny and light-hearted song; ‘To Be A Woman.’ However, whilst he has been in prison, the Wild Wooders have taken over Toad Hall, and kidnapped Mrs Otter’s daughter, Portia, portrayed by Emilie Du Leslay. Act two opens with another great song; ‘We’re Taking Over the Hall,’ performed by Chief Weasel, Neil McDermott, and the ensemble of Wild Wooders, made up of ‘foxes, weasels and stouts.’
Mole, Ratty, Toad, Badger and Mrs Otter, all must work together to hide Mr Toad from the police, and to rescue Portia from being eaten by the Wild Wooders. This is achieved through teamwork, being a little clever, and the key message of the show, relying on the help of friends. The Finale is beautiful, as Toad throws a party to celebrate gaining back Toad Hall, for all of the creatures to enjoy.
A wholesome and beautiful musical, with a message showing the importance of loyalty and friendship. It offers light and positive relief to the current pandemic we are facing, so if you’re looking for a little bit happiness, I urge you to watch! The website, www.willowsmusical.com also offers the option to donate to the important cause Acting For Others, which helps provide support to all workers within the theatre industry.
Reviewer: Claudia Thomas
Reviewed: 19th March 2020
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★