Wind in the Willows at the New Vic Theatre, Stoke
The show opened on 17 November 2018 and ran until 26 January 2019.
An immersive show for the under-fives strikes gold and acts as a primer for Peter Leslie Wild’s inventive and boisterous main stage production… a show in perpetual motion. As economical in its theatrical means as it is inventive, it finds deft ways of expressing complex pieces of business. For one of the great highlights of the show is Matt Baker’s score, gorgeously sung and played by an impassioned ensemble. Varying from ravishing a cappella harmonies to New Orleans jazz, the music takes on early 20th-century forms such as barbershop and tango, even carrying a suggestion of the Russian revolution when the woodland creatures seize Toad Hall with strident cymbal crashes and urgent accordion beats. In a show that is whimsical but not twee, it adds to the rich communal spirit.
The cast of accomplished actor-musicians begins with a haunting acapella song that rouses Alicia McKenzie’s anxious and naive mole from slumber. This is engaging and innocent family fare, performed with aplomb. (The Stage)
It’s gentle, charming and whimsical, a perfect festive outing for people of all ages…heart-warming affirmation of the value of friendship that runs throughout. As you would expect from a New Vic production, the cast all multitasked. The music was another high point for me. It fit perfectly with the period of the book and added to the timeless quality of the show. Anyone of any age could enjoy Wind in the Willows. There’s absolutely nothing half so much worth doing as going to see it. (Stoke Sentinel)
There are seven others in the cast who play lots of other parts – I think the quick-change dressers should take a bow – and everyone sings or plays a musical instrument.
The New Vic brings to life a timeless tale, creating a magical experience for audiences of all ages… And the beauty, as ever, in any New Vic production is that the theatre-in-the-round setting brings the audience up-close to the action. This is a tale of courage and friendship, with a dose of danger, too (which children and adults alike can revel in). Plus, in between their lines, the cast took their shifts playing musical instruments (an impressive display of multi-tasking, in our opinion). The original score, composed by Matt Baker, is a delight and fits perfectly with the story. (Yeah Lifestyle)
Grahame’s characters are so beautifully drawn, casting them is key; and in this the New Vic has thrown away the clichéd form book. This production determinedly avoids the anthropomorphic trap. The actors act like humans, with only a carefully managed tail to remind us otherwise. Matt Baker’s music is exquisite throughout. Instruments seem to pop up everywhere … playing a repertoire ranging from a gentle soft shoe shuffle (ideal for messing about on the river) to a big Weasely Kurt Weil-style number. But it always steadfastly references the story’s Edwardian roots. (Shropshire Events & Whats On Guide)
A tale of friendship, strength and determination, acast of 11 actor-musicians take us from the river bank to the Wild Wood. The amazing thing about the production is, despite the fact that you have to use your imagination, it really feels like you’re watching Mr Toad storming through the streets of the Wide World in his motorcar. All 11 of the actor-musicians give impressive performances, switching between singing, dancing and playing instruments, they create an atmosphere that is hard to forget. (Staffs Live)
The Wind in the Willows brings enchantment, adorable characters in mysterious settings and a sprinkling of snow for a delightful Christmas play at the New Vic. Imaginations are allowed to run wild.. A fabulous story, superb stage setting and fantastic cast – who between them also perform live music – makes Wind in the Willows a must see at the New Vic. (Baba Baboon)
Within moments you enter the magical world. The direction was also on point, using the set and cast to full effect. Unbelievable stagecraft always accompanies a New Vic Production and it was great to see Director Peter Leslie Wild continue that trend whilst adding stamping his mark in other ways…and there wasn’t a weak link in this group of actor-musicians. It’s always impressive when the actors produce their own music, but even more so when it doesn’t affect the flow of the performance or take energy away from the main action on stage. (At The Theatre)
Time and effort has been devoted to creating just the right atmosphere and “look” for each scene and it pays off. The characters are resplendent in their Edwardian costumes, set off by some pretty fabulous tails and ears, designed by Lis Evans. The cast are suitably bonkers. The staging has a relaxed feel to it, with characters often sitting just off stage, watching the action with us. It is especially inventive the way the musicians stroll on and off stage, often becoming animals themselves. I have never seen a fox play the saxophone, but there is always a first — especially when you are visiting the Wild Wood. (TheTimes)