The highly-anticipated major new musical theatre adaptation of The Wind in the Willows created by Julian Fellowes, George Stiles and Anthony Drewe is confirmed to open at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth from 8 October 2016, followed by The Lowry in Salford from 26 October 2016 prior to opening in London’s West End.
Based on Kenneth Grahame’s treasured novel which has captivated generations of readers for over a century, The Wind in the Willows has been adapted for the stage with a book by Oscar-winning screenwriter and Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes and Olivier Award-winning composer and lyricist team George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. The Wind in the Willows marks the first time the three have worked together since their hugely successful collaboration on the international hit musical Mary Poppins which ran for three years in the West End and six years on Broadway.
Developed and produced by Jamie Hendry Productions and presented in association with Theatre Royal Plymouth, The Wind in the Willows is directed by Rachel Kavanaugh with design by Peter McKintosh and lighting design by Howard Harrison. The company will number more than 50.
Kenneth Grahame’s wild tale about the thrill-seeking, lovable menace Mr Toad comes to life in a brand new stage musical. Ratty, Badger and Mole join the exuberant Toad and embark on a series of adventures and misadventures caused by his insatiable need for speed. Imprisoned for theft and with his existence under threat from the inhabitants of the Wild Wood, Toad must attempt a daring escape to defend Toad Hall.
Producer Jamie Hendry said: “I am delighted that we will be opening The Wind in the Willows in two of the country’s most prestigious venues prior to the West End. It has been a joy working with such a distinguished team of writers and creatives to develop that rare thing – a new British musical. I can’t wait to get the show on the road and invite audiences to share in our journey next year!”
Hendry also announced that he is sending copies of Kenneth Grahame’s novel to every school and library in Plymouth and Salford, launching an incentive to provide readers of all ages the opportunity to enjoy The Wind in the Willows before the musical opens. He added: “I am a firm believer that our most classic novels should be freely available for everyone to enjoy. I hope that readers will fall in love with Grahame’s story as much as I did, which ultimately led to the commissioning of this musical.”
Writer Julian Fellowes commented: “I could not be more pleased to have been working on this new production of The Wind in the Willows, which has been a favourite of mine literally all my life. It has been a real privilege to be part of the team re-imagining it for the musical stage. As an added bonus, I’ve really enjoyed being back in the Stiles/Drewe/Fellowes team with our last production of Mary Poppins being a high point for all of us.
“Naturally, I have similar hopes for The Wind in the Willows and I shall be on the edge of my seat when we open at Plymouth, a marvellous theatre and the perfect launch pad for us to begin. Of course I would say all this, wouldn’t I? But I do believe audiences everywhere will love the adventures of Toad, Ratty, Mole, Badger and their friends, on stage, as much as they have always loved the book. I certainly hope so, anyway.”
Julian Fellowes created the hugely popular period drama Downton Abbey for which he won two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe in 2011. Fellowes won an Oscar in 2002 for his Gosford Park screenplay. Other screenplays include The Young Victoria, Separate Lies, Vanity Fair and The Tourist.
George Stiles and Anthony Drewe have been writing together for more than 30 years. They are best known for writing new songs for Mary Poppins, their Olivier Award-winning Honk!, Just So and more recently Betty Blue Eyes. Their current projects include a new version of Half a Sixpence and a musical based on Travels With My Aunt.
The production is being developed and produced by Jamie Hendry Productions, whose recent productions include the global success Let It Be, hit magic show Impossible, Tim Firth’s Neville’s Island, the multi Olivier Award-winning Legally Blonde the Musical and the multi Olivier Award-winning La Cage Aux Folles.
Full details on casting as well as West End dates and venue will be announced in due course.
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Interview – George Stiles and Anthony Drewe on being partners in rhyme
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