The Wind in the Willows (musical)

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The Wind in the Willows
The Wind in the Willows Musical Logo.jpg
The Original Musical Poster
MusicGeorge Stiles
LyricsAnthony Drewe
BookJulian Fellowes
BasisThe Wind in the Willows by
Kenneth Grahame
Productions2016 UK Tour
2017 West End
2018 Royal Tunbridge Wells

The Wind in the Willows is a musical written by Julian Fellowes, with music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, based on the novel of the same name, written by Kenneth Grahame. The musical received its world premiere at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth in October 2016, before transferring to The Lowry in Salford and the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton. The following year the production transferred to the West End's London Palladium, where it was filmed for cinema broadcast.


In December 2011,[1] it was revealed that a musical adaption of the 1908 novel The Wind in the Willows was being worked on[2] by Julian Fellowes with music and lyrics to be penned by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.[2] The trio first worked together on the musical Mary Poppins.[3] In November 2013, a Crowdfunding exercise was launched to raise ten percent[4] of the show's £6.5m budget,[5] with a view to opening the show in London in 2015.[6] Ultimately more than 10% was raised by that means, totalling one million pounds.[7] The trio are also reunited with director Rachel Kavanaugh who directed Half a Sixpence as well as directing Stiles and Drewe's Peter Pan A Musical Adventure at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2007 and 2008.

The musical has a book by Downton Abbey creator Fellowes,[8] based on the 1908 novel The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame[9] and is directed by Rachel Kavanaugh,[10] with design by Peter McKintosh,[11] lighting design by Howard Harrison and sound design by Gareth Owen.[12] The show features an original score by George Stiles and lyrics by Anthony Drewe.[13] Open auditions were held in April 2016.[14]


Original UK Tour (2016)[edit]

The musical made its world premiere at the Theatre Royal Plymouth from 8 to 22 October 2016, before heading to the Lowry Theatre Salford from 27 October to 6 November 2016 and the Mayflower Theatre Southampton from 10 to 20 November 2016.

In June 2016 the full cast was announced including Rufus Hound as Toad, David Birrell as Badger, Fra Fee as Mole, Thomas Howes as Rat, Neil McDermott as Chief Weasel and Sophia Nomvete as Mrs Otter.[15]

West End (2017)[edit]

On 8 November 2016, it was announced that the musical will transfer into the West End at the London Palladium, with previews beginning 17 June, with the opening night scheduled for 29 June 2017.[16] Whilst always a limited run, the planned closing night of 9 September 2017 was brought a week to 2 September 2017 due to disappointing ticket sales. Hound[17] and McDermott will reprise their roles as Toad and Chief Weasel, and will be joined by Simon Lipkin as Rat, Craig Mather as Mole, Denise Welch as Mrs Otter and Gary Wilmot as Badger.

Royal Tunbridge Wells (2018)[edit]

Opening 13 December 2018, professional regional theatre company Trinity Theatre successfully produced a short three-week revival run of the show which was briefly extended with extra performance dates due to its popularity.[18] Susan Elkin reviewed the production positively, awarding it four stars and describing the show as "in pretty good hands with Trinity Theatre Productions".[19] BroadwayWorld lists the cast as featuring "Alastair Brown, Alexandra Burns, Ashton Charge, Benjamin Stone, Brook Adams, Ian Chaplin, Jamie Scott-Smith, Lewis Mariot, Harriet Doyle, Luke Simnett, Matthew West, Sara Louisa Parry and Scarlett Leigh Fawcett".[20] The production closed 6 January 2019.[21]

Cinema Broadcast[edit]

During the West End run the musical was filmed by BroadwayHD, with direction by Tim van Someren.[22] In 2018, it was released in UK cinemas over the Easter period, and is scheduled to be added to BroadwayHD online from August 2018.[23]


Act 1[edit]

With the arrival of spring and fine weather outside, Mole loses patience with spring cleaning ("Spring"). He flees his underground home, emerging to take in the air and ends up at the river, which he has never seen before. Here he meets Rat (a water vole), who at this time of year spends all his days in, on and close by the river. Rat takes Mole for a ride in his rowing boat ("Messing About in a Boat"). After this, he shares his picnic and an enduring friendship is born. Mrs. Otter gate crashes the friend's picnic looking for her daughter Portia who has a habit of wandering off in search of food. Rat and Mrs Otter warn Mole about the inhabitants of the Wild Wood and tell him of wise but solitary Badger who lives there. Then of the extraordinary amphibian, Mr Toad, and his need for speed ("Speed is of the Essence").

Summer is drawing near, and the Swallows arrive ("One Swallow Does Not a Summer Make"). Mole and Rat visit Toad Hall at the request of Mr Toad. Mr Toad is rich, jovial, friendly and kind-hearted, but aimless and conceited; he regularly becomes obsessed with current fads, only to abandon them abruptly. Having recently given up boating, Mr Toad's current craze is his horse-drawn caravan. He persuades the reluctant Rat and willing Mole to join him on a trip ("The Open Road"). Having parked at the roadside for an overnight stop, a passing motor car scares the horse, causing the caravan to overturn into a ditch. Rather than be upset Mr Toad changes his obsession again and now focuses on the new-fangled motor-car. In his new racer, he terrorises his neighbours, particularly a family of nervous Hedgehogs ("The Hedgehog's Nightmare"). He is truly obsessed with his motor-car, and the animals are both fascinated and dismayed about the new craze, which he enthuses about ("The Amazing Mr Toad").

Determined to save Mr Toad from himself, Mole insists Rat and he venture into the Wild Wood to call on the support of Badger. When Rat refuses, Mole ventures on the scary road alone. Pursued by the Chief Weasel and his Wild Wooders, Mole only escapes when Rat has a change of heart ("The Wild Wooders"). Unfortunately falling leaves of autumn have covered the path to Badger's house and the two are lost in the Wild Wood ("Autumn"). When Mole injures himself on a boot scraper, Rat realises they have accidentally stumbled on Badger's doorstep. As Badger invites them in, Chief Weasel calls his gang of Wild Wooders and tells them of his plot to steal Toad Hall so they can live the good-life. Portia, still looking for food, is kidnapped by the gang.

Inside Badger's house, Mole and Rat convince Badger to come to Mr Toad's aid ("A Friend is Still a Friend"). The trio arrive at Toad Hall to find that Mr Toad has ordered a new car after yet another crash and set out to guard him in his bedroom until he learns some sense. Mrs Otter arrives and when she begs the friends to help her find Portia, Mole suggests he looks after Mr Toad whilst the Rat and Badger join the search. Feigning illness, Mr Toad escapes Toad Hall, and steals a beautiful new car ("Toad's Escape").

After being arrested for his crime of stealing the car, a court scene takes place with the Wild Wooders as the jury, making sure that Mr Toad is imprisoned so they can take over Toad Hall and claim it as their own. Without showing much remorse, Toad recalls what happened - claiming that it was the car that stole him, and not the other way round, while Rat, Mole and Badger try and convince him to show some remorse for his crime. The scene ends with Mr Toad being sentenced to twenty years in jail ("As if in a Dream").

Act 2[edit]

With Toad in prison, the Wild Wooders have taken over Toad Hall and are fattening up Portia, readying her for a feast to come ("We're Taking Over the Hall"). In prison, Mr Toad gains the sympathy of the Gaoler's Daughter, who helps him to escape disguised as a washerwoman ("To Be a Woman"). Walking through the Wood, Rat and Mole discuss the imprisonment of their friend when they come across Mole's home . Homesick, having realised he hasn't returned since the day he left his Spring cleaning, the friends have a humble feast, while Mole speaks fondly of his home ("A Place to Come Back To"). After this, some wassailing mice visit as is familiar to Mole, wishing well to the animals of the forest ("The Wassailing Mice"). As the choristers’ song ends, Badger bursts in to let Rat and Mole know that Mr Toad is now a criminal on the run. They set off again to save him from himself.

Though free again, Mr Toad is pursued by the police. He manages to board a railway engine manned by a sympathetic driver. Mr Toad jumps from the train when the law catches up and, still disguised as a washerwoman, comes across a horse-drawn barge. The barge's owner offers him a lift in exchange for Mr Toad's services as a washerwoman. After botching the wash, Mr Toad gets into a fight with the barge-woman, who tosses him into the canal. Soaked, Mr Toad flags down a passing car, which happens to be the very one he stole earlier. The car owner, not recognising Mr Toad in his disguise, permits him to drive the car. Once behind the wheel, he is possessed by his former passion and drives furiously, declaring his identity to the owner who tries to seize him leading to yet another crash ("The Greatest Great Escape").

Badger discovers Toad at the doors of Toad Hall. Badger and friends tell Mr Toad that Toad Hall has been taken over by weasels and stoats from the Wild Wood and even worse, that Portia is trapped inside. After Mole convinces two guards that an attack on the Hall is imminent Badger announces that he knows of a secret tunnel into Toad Hall through which the enemies may be attacked ("Hush!"). Badger, Mrs Otter, Rat, Mole and Mr Toad enter via the tunnel and pounce upon the unsuspecting Wild Wooders who are holding a celebratory party and about to cook Portia ("The Fight"). The friends celebrate, having driven away the intruders. It's spring once again, and the animals are working hard, while Rat and Mole quite happily row on the river together - they are both content in having one another's company over the adventures Toad has. Mr Toad holds a party to mark his return, although it doesn't seem that he's changed at all ("Finale").

Differences between the musical and novel[edit]

  • In the novel, Toad, Mole, Rat, Badger, the Weasels, and Otter are anthropomorphised animals, while in the musical they are portrayed in human form, but with animal characteristics.
  • The characters of Otter and his son Portly have been adapted by to suit a modern audience by Julian Fellowes, and now appear as Mrs Otter and her daughter Portia.
  • The Weasels kidnap Portia once they took over Toad Hall.

Musical numbers[edit]

Original London Cast Recording[edit]

The Original London Cast Recording was released on 30 June 2017 by Sony Masterworks Broadway[24] and features 20 tracks.[25]

Characters and original cast[edit]

The characters and original cast:

Character Pre-West End tryout


West End


Toad Rufus Hound
Badger David Birrell Gary Wilmot
Mole Fra Fee Craig Mather
Rat Thomas Howes Simon Lipkin
Chief Weasel Neil McDermott
Mrs Otter Sophia Nomvete Denise Welch
Lesser Weasel / Fieldmouse Dylan Mason Joshua Gannon
Mrs. Hedgehog / Gaolers Daughter Jenna Boyd
Mr. Hedgehog James Gant
Magistrate Adam Vaughan
Car Driver Graham Lappin James Gant
Train Driver Adam Vaughan Chris Aukett
Bargewoman Emma Odell Denise Welch
Head Chorister Fieldmouse Michael Larcombe
Horse Courtney Bowman Natalie Woods
Horse / Swallow / Fieldmouse Abigail Brodie
Swallow / Fieldmouse Bethany Linsdell
Rabbit Butler Evan James
Susie Stoat / Swallow Karli Vale Rosanna Bates
Dance Captain/Prison Guard Ryan Pidgen
Scared Weasel Jorell Coiffic-Kamall
Scared Stoat Nicole Deon
Swing Patrick Sullivan Joel Baylis
Swing Georgie Westall
Sentry Stoat Rakesh Boury
Portia Holly Willock Emilie du Leslay

Awards and Nominations[edit]

Original Production[edit]

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result Ref
2017 Manchester Theatre Awards Best Musical Nominated [26]
Best Actor in a Visiting Production Rufus Hound Won


  1. ^ "Mary Poppins Writers Julian Fellowes, George Stiles and Anthony Drewe Reunite to Write London Musical "Wind in the Willows"". Playbill. 9 December 2011. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Downton Abbey writer to stage The Wind In The Willows". The Telegraph. 9 December 2011. Retrieved 15 November 2013. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  3. ^ "Theatregoers given chance to invest in Fellowes, Stiles and Drewe's Wind in the Willows". Whats On Stage. 10 November 2013. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
  4. ^ "Wind in the Willows becomes first West End musical to seek investment from fans". The Telegraph. 11 November 2013. Retrieved 15 November 2013. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  5. ^ "Julian Fellowes musical seeks funding from little beasts". The Sunday Times. 10 November 2013. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
  6. ^ "Invest in Toad Hall? Wind in the Willows stage show invites funding". The Guardian. 11 November 2013. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
  7. ^ "Wind in the Willows musical raises £1m via online crowdfunding". The Stage. 13 February 2014. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
  8. ^ "New Wind in the Willows musical from Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes set for the West End". London Evening Standard. 2 October 2015. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  9. ^ "Fellowes, Drewe & Stiles to Bring New WIND IN THE WILLOWS Musical to the Stage Next Fall". Broadway World. 2 October 2015. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  10. ^ "Wind in the Willows musical set for world premiere". BBC News. 2 October 2015. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  11. ^ ""Downton Abbey" Writer's Wind in the Willows Musical Sets U.K. Premiere Dates". Playbill. 2 October 2015. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  12. ^ "Julian Fellowes' The Wind in the Willows to receive world premiere in Plymouth". The Stage. 2 October 2015. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  13. ^ "Julian Fellowes' Wind in the Willows to open in October 2016". Whats On Stage. 2 October 2015. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
  14. ^ "Wind in the Willows musical to hold open auditions". The Stage. 6 April 2016. Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  15. ^ "Rufus Hound to star in new Wind in the Willows musical". Retrieved 2016-06-27.
  16. ^ "The Wind in the Willows announces London Palladium run". The Stage. 8 November 2016. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  17. ^ "The Wind In The Willows musical confirms West End dates". Retrieved 2016-11-08.
  18. ^ "Extra performances added for our Christmas hit – The Wind in the Willows!". January 2019. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  19. ^ "The Wind in the Willows - ★★★★". Sardines. 14 December 2018. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  20. ^ "Photo Flash: In Rehearsal With THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS". 10 December 2018. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  21. ^ "WIND IN THE WILLOWS Trinity Theatre". Tunbridge Wells Events. January 2018. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  22. ^ "The Wind in the Willows to be broadcast and streamed internationally". Retrieved 2017-09-11.
  23. ^ "The Wind in the Willows cinema screening dates announced". WhatsOnStage. 5 March 2018. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  24. ^ "Original Cast Recording Now On Sale". Retrieved 2017-07-27.
  25. ^ "Cast Recording of London Musical Wind in the Willows Will Be Released in June". Playbill. 15 May 2017. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  26. ^ "Manchester Theatre Award Winners". 17 March 2017. Retrieved 19 March 2017.

External links[edit]