REVIEW: The Wind in The Willows at Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

Rufus Hound as Mr Toad in The Wind in the Willows
Rufus Hound as Mr Toad in The Wind in the Willows
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The Wind in the Willows is a little story with very big aspirations. Based on the classic novel by Kenneth Grahame, the lyrics and music by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe shine brightly (anyone who has their cast sing punctuation deserves an award.)

The script/book by Julian Fellowes contained two weight references in the second act which were off-putting, lending themselves to underpin the occasional whiff of pantomime. But overall the whole musical was a lyrical and visual spectacle, with a terrific turn as Toad put in by Rufus Hound.

There has been no expense spared on the fabulous set featuring numerous boats, barges, caravans, a steam train and various tree branches and roots growing and waning through the seasons. The costuming was superb though some younger viewers might get lost with the subtle referencing (otters dressed in outfits reminiscent of Victorian swimsuits). Presented with a riverbank full of amphibians and animals, and a wildwood of baddies, the ensemble was terrific, creating moments and melodies with precision and clarity. This show is worth watching for the otter ballet in act one alone.

It feels as if Wind in the Willows wants to be a Christmas show with a tinsel ending. It’s not, but as an early Christmas present it’s perfect for all the family.

Until Sunday.