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Review: Wind in the Willows at the London Palladium

Mr Toad's larger-than-life antics save the day in this musical adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's timeless classic

14 July, 2017 — By Angela Cobbinah

Toad in a hole: Rufus Hound in The Wind in the Willows. PHOTO: MARC BRENNER

The book has enchanted generations of children, so this musical adaptation for the stage just in time for the school hols seems like a sure-fire winner. And it is. Just about.

In this everyday story of river folk, Mole (Craig Mather), Rat (Simon Lipkin) and Badger (Gary Wilmot) are as endearing as ever, while Chief Weasel (Neil McDermott), depicted as an East End spiv, is delightfully bad.

But it is the buffoonish and boastful character of Mr Toad that holds everything together, a feat that the green-haired, goggle-eyed Rufus Hound manages to do with great aplomb and enthusiasm.

He has his work cut out for him, though, as George Stiles and Anthony Drewe’s songs, while likeable enough, mostly fail to hit the memorable spot. The Gilbert and Sullivanesque As if in a Dream, sung by the full company, is a notable exception.

Moreover, Peter McKintosh’s main stage backdrop of recessed semi-circles of Scandi-wood fringed with plastic-looking willow fronds did little to summon up the cosy feel of a riverbank and reminded me more of the Big Brother set.

But will the children, whom the show is aimed at, really notice? It was way past her bedtime but my granddaughter, seven, was bopping up and down in her seat till the end and clearly found Toad’s larger-than-life antics hilarious, particularly during his stint as a washerwoman.

As a bonus, subject to availability there is a ticket promotion in which kids either go free or half price. What more could you want? Poop Poop.

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