The London Palladium will play host to the definitive musical theatre version of Kenneth Grahame’s book The Wind in the Willows this summer, according to producer Jamie Hendry.
The musical features music by George Stiles and lyrics by Anthony Drewe, who are no strangers to adaptations of classic children’s stories from Honk! and Just So to The Three Little Pigs and Peter Pan.
Stiles and Drewe have collaborated once again with Julian Fellowes, with whom they worked on Mary Poppins and the Chichester Festival Theatre production of Half a Sixpence which is currently running at the Noël Coward Theatre.
The story has been adapted for the stage several times before, from A. A. Milne’s adaptation, Toad of Toad Hall, to a version penned by Alan Bennett for the National Theatre. It has been adapted as a musical at least twice before, including a 1985 Broadway production starring Nathan Lane.
Speaking at a press event at the London Palladium, where The Wind in the Willows is to open in June, Hendry revealed that roughly half of the 25-strong cast who premiered the musical last year in Plymouth will be returning for its West End run. Rufus Hound will reprise his lead role as Mr Toad, while Neil McDermott is to return as Chief Weasel.
Director Rachel Kavanaugh said that staging the show in Plymouth, and its subsequent tour to Manchester and Southampton, had given the team the opportunity to learn a lot.
“It was pretty good, but it could be even better – and that’s our goal for this summer. We probably will change a few things in every area. We’re talking about doing some rewriting, a little bit of re-orchestration and a couple of new costumes. It’ll be an even bigger, brighter and better version, to fill this amazing theatre.”
“In the end, this show is about an exploration of friendship,” said Fellowes, “and quite a subtle one at times. [Friendship] is of course important to us all, but almost never explored in films or even novels. Friends drop to the back of the stage. But in our lives, they are right at the front.”
The Wind in the Willows starts previews on 17 June, opening on 29 June 29. Confirmed as joining Rufus Hound and Neil McDermott in the cast are Jenna Boyd, Abigail Brodie, Jorell Coiffic-Kamall, Nicole Deon, James Grant, Evan James, Michael Larcombe, Bethany Lindsell, Ryan Pidgen, Adam Vaughan and Georgie Westall, with further casting to be announced.
Produced by Jamie Hendry, MJE Productions and Josh Gillinski in association with Theatre Royal Plymouth, the musical is directed by Rachel Kavanaugh with choreography by Aleta Collins and design by Peter McKintosh.
Tickets for The Wind in the Willows at the London Palladium are available HERE.