Whistle Down the Wind (musical)

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This article is about the 1996 Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. For the 1989 Labey/Taylor musical, see Whistle Down the Wind (1989 musical).
Whistle Down the Wind
Music Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics Jim Steinman
Book Patricia Knop
Andrew Lloyd Webber
Gale Edwards
Basis 1961 film Whistle Down the Wind
Productions 1996 Washington DC
1998 West End
2001 UK Tour
2006 West End revival
2007–08 U.S. Tour
2010 UK Tour

Whistle Down the Wind is a musical, which was premièred in 1996, based on the 1961 film Whistle Down the Wind, which was composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Jim Steinman, known for his work with Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler.


US premiere[edit]

Whistle Down the Wind was premièred at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C. on 12 December 1996, starring Davis Gaines as the Man and Irene Molloy as Swallow. It drew mostly negative reviews, and the Broadway opening that had been scheduled for 17 April 1997, was subsequently cancelled. It was felt that, among other things, it was Harold Prince's direction that had led to its failure. However, it got a huge amount of advance publicity, due to Steinman's status as a popular American songwriter and how strange the combination of Steinman and Lloyd Webber seemed based on Steinman's prior work. The orchestrations were by Lloyd Webber's longtime orchestrator David Cullen.

West End premiere[edit]

A reworked, and more successful, West End production opened at the Aldwych Theatre on 1 July 1998, starring Marcus Lovett as The Man and Lottie Mayor as Swallow. It ran for 1,044 performances and closed in January 2001. This production was darker than the Washington, D.C. production, and was revised and directed by Gale Edwards, a director who had previously collaborated with Lloyd Webber on an updated production of Jesus Christ Superstar.[citation needed]

The original West End case included:

  • The Man – Marcus Lovett
  • Swallow – Lottie Mayor
  • Amos – Dean Collinson
  • Candy – Veronica Hart
  • Boone – James Graeme
  • Ed – Walter Herron Reynolds III
  • Snake Preacher – Christopher Howard
  • Earl – Paul Lowe
  • Sheriff – John Turner
  • Deputy – Craig Parkinson
  • The Minister – Reg Eppey
  • Brat – Danielle Calvert/Ashley Andrews
  • Poor Baby – Ricki Cuttell/Dean Clish

Subsequently, The Man was played by Jerome Pradon and Glenn Carter, and Swallow was played by Laura Michelle Kelly. The children's cast included Jessica Cornish (now known as Jessie J) and Hannah Tointon as Brat, James Buckley and Matthew Thomas as Clarence, Jade Ewen and Jay Asforis as Curly and Cassie Compton as Ramona.[citation needed]


Concept album[edit]

A concept album was released in 1998 featuring 12 of the songs from the show, covered by artists such as Tom Jones, Boy George, Tina Arena, Donny Osmond, the Everly Brothers, Boyzone, Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler. In addition to this roster of popular recording artists and the gospel choir Sounds of Blackness, West End theatre stars Elaine Paige and Michael Ball and up-and-coming singer-actress Lottie Mayor, scheduled to play Swallow in the reworked West End version, appeared on the album. Steinman and Lloyd Webber were executive producers.

Concept album track listing[edit]

  1. "Vaults of Heaven" – Tom Jones with Sounds of Blackness
  2. "Whistle Down the Wind" – Tina Arena
  3. "No Matter What" – Boyzone
  4. "If Only" – Elaine Paige
  5. "When Children Rule the World" – Donny Osmond
  6. "Cold" – Everly Brothers
  7. "A Kiss Is a Terrible Thing to Waste" – Meat Loaf
  8. "Try Not to Be Afraid" – Boy George
  9. "Wrestle with the Devil" – Sounds of Blackness
  10. "Tyre Tracks and Broken Hearts" – Bonnie Tyler
  11. "Unsettled Scores" – Michael Ball
  12. "Whistle Down the Wind" – Lottie Mayor

Cast recording[edit]

A double album cast recording, produced by Lloyd Webber and Nigel Wright, was released the same year featuring the original cast of the West End production.

Notable songs from the show include "Whistle Down the Wind," "A Kiss is a Terrible Thing to Waste," "When Children Rule the World," and "No Matter What." The last of these was released as a single by Boyzone and had unprecedented success: it went platinum, was voted the UK's Record of the Year for 1998, and hit No. 1 in 18 countries, becoming the most successful single produced from a musical in history[citation needed].

Tina Arena single[edit]

"Whistle Down The Wind" was released on 20 June 1998, by Australian recording artist Tina Arena. It peaked at #24 on the UK singles chart on 27 June.[1] It was included on the UK edition of her 1997 album, In Deep. Arena performed the song live on Top of the Pops.


UK tour / West End revival[edit]

In 2001, Bill Kenwright produced and directed his own production of Whistle Down the Wind for a UK tour, starring Tim Rogers as The Man and Katie Rowley Jones as Swallow. He was granted a considerable amount of creative freedom as director, authorised by Andrew Lloyd Webber to make significant changes to the dramatic structure of the musical, including replacing the running parable of Annie and Charlie Christmas told to the children by The Man with a lighter-toned number called "The Gang" (lyrics by Don Black). This version was simpler in design and more focused on the human story than the spectacular visuals of the Aldwych production. The show toured the UK a number of times with several cast changes between 2001 to 2004.

At the request of Lloyd Webber, Kenwright brought his production of Whistle Down the Wind to the Palace Theatre, London in March 2006, where it played a limited run until August, filling the gap between the closure of another Lloyd Webber musical, The Woman in White and the opening of the Monty Python musical Spamalot. Tim Rogers reprised his acclaimed performance of The Man, and Claire Marlowe, another veteran of the UK tour, reprised the role of Swallow. The critical opinion was mixed, ranging from Michael Billington's 2 star review in The Guardian[2] to Benedict Nightingale's 4 star review in The Times,[3] but virtually all of the national papers agreed that this version was an improvement on Gale Edwards's Aldwych production.

USA tour (2007–08)[edit]

A tour of Whistle Down the Wind in the USA began in Houston in September 2007, and ended in February 2008 in Norfolk, Virginia. In each city, local children were added to the cast. They were only in the show for the time it played in their city. Planned Los Angeles and San Francisco dates were cancelled.[4] The production was directed and produced by Bill Kenwright, who had expressed, in his promotional video for the US Tour, his intention to take the show to Broadway. It starred Eric Kunze as The Man and Andrea Ross as Swallow.[5][6][7]

2010 UK tour[edit]

Bill Kenwright started the new decade with a brand new production of "Whistle", starting at the Liverpool Empire on 20 January and moving onto venues including Bristol and Edinburgh. The production, the first of "Whistle" in 4 years, was Directed by Bill Kenwright, Musically Directed by David Steadman with Choreography by Henry Metcalfe. Jonathan Ansell played The Man, and Carly Bawden was Swallow.[citation needed]

2014 Southeast U.S. premiere[edit]

18–27 July 2014 marked the Atlanta area/Southeast U.S. premier of "Whistle Down The Wind." The production was staged in Duluth, GA by Live Arts Theatre, and directed by Starshine Stanfield. Spencer Estes played The Man, and Amanda Piehler played Swallow.[8]


Based on the novel of the same name by Mary Hayley Bell, the setting was moved from Lancashire to small town Louisiana in 1959.

Act 1[edit]

The show begins in a small church in Louisiana. We join the action just as the congregation are about to sing a song- Vaults of Heaven. After the song, the preacher concludes his sermon, and the congregation go their separate ways- we see the kids running and playing (Overture), and we are soon introduced to Swallow, Brat and Poor Baby. Poor Baby complains that "I Never Get What I Pray For," before they meet Ed, who is about to drown some kittens- Swallow manages to save them and the kids realise that they should have been "Home By Now." We also meet Earl, who is looking for a place to put up a tent for a revival meeting, where "folks go to dance with snakes" in order to test their faith in Jesus. Back at their home, their father Boone tries to convince them that "It Just Doesn't Get Any Better Than This," before recalling what his wife used to say: "Whistle Down The Wind." As Poor Baby puts it, 'Ma sang it better,' and Swallow leaves to go feed the kittens, while singing "Whistle Down The Wind" to herself. In the barn, she prays that God will look after the kittens, but is startled by a loud cry, and a man jumps out at her. When she asks who he is, he only manages to moan "Jesus Christ.." before he collapses. She, Brat and Poor Baby promise they won't tell anyone that he is there: "The Vow."

The scene shifts to a bar where Ed is singing "Cold" to entertain the townspeople. The Sheriff arrives at the bar to warn the town that there is an escaped killer on the loose, and that he could be hiding out nearby. We move back to the barn where The Man wakes to find himself surrounded by children, who all promise to take care of him and to keep his existence a secret. Left alone, he sings of "Unsettled Scores." Later that night, Swallow brings him some food, and asks him if he will bring her mother back: "Being the Son of God, it can't be that difficult for you!" She sings "If Only," thinking of the way she wishes things could be.

We then meet Candy, a young black girl, and Amos, a white boy, who sing of longing to get away from the town they live in, to a place they can be free: "Tire Tracks and Broken Hearts." The townspeople sing of how the town used to be, and what it must be again: "Safe Haven."

The children are discussing what it would mean if the mysterious man really was Jesus Christ, and what a difference it would make to their lives: "Long Overdue For A Miracle." They realise that if they do everything right, they could save him, and that this could be the night "When Children Rule The World." In the barn, they beg The Man to tell them a story, and he complies, telling them a story which he says will be in the next Testament, "Annie Christmas". When he finishes, they ask repeatedly what the moral is, and when he admits that he doesn't know, they offer him gifts and promise that "No Matter What," they'll always love him. Above the stage, we see the adults preparing to hunt down the escaped killer, their anger in complete contrast to the children's innocence and happiness.

Act 2[edit]

The second act begins with the townspeople once again preparing to hunt down the killer (Safe Haven Reprise), and we see The Man and Swallow in the barn below. The Man asks Swallow to retrieve a package for him, 4 miles away at the train tunnel, and on noticing that she is shaking, tells her to "Try Not To Be Afraid." Amos arrives at the barn to visit Swallow before he leaves town with Candy, and asks if she will tell him her big secret before he goes. He says if they share secrets, they'll have to seal them with a kiss, and that "A Kiss Is A Terrible Thing To Waste." The Man, hiding in the barn, overhears their conversations and joins in as Amos sings the song, realising that they seem to correspond to his life- "The emptiest words that there'll ever be, it could have been me- it could have been me." Swallow asks Amos to take her to the train tunnel before he can kiss her. There, she retrieves the package, but is almost killed by a train, though Amos manages to push her out of the way in time. "You saved my life, Amos! That means I owe you one now!" she says, then she tells him her secret: "What would you say if I told you Jesus had come back? He's back, Amos! Jesus is in my barn!" They are interrupted by the Sheriff, who thinks he has discovered the killer, and is rather disappointed to find it is only Swallow and Amos. We also see Earl, who has been hiding in the train tunnel the whole time, and has overheard Swallow's secret. At home, Swallow finds Poor Baby, who is upset because his kitten, which he asked "Jesus" to look after, has died; Swallow suggests they ask "Jesus" why he allowed the kitten to die: "If Only (Reprise)." In the barn, The Man tells them another story to explain why the kitten died: "Charlie Christmas," saying that everyone dies in the end, "even the cat, even old Charlie...even your mother."

On the highway, we see Candy waiting for Amos: "Off Ramp Exit To Paradise," but when he eventually turns up, its only to ask her where Swallow is, as he says she's in trouble. When he runs off, Candy meets Earl, who says he knows Swallow's big secret, and knows why Amos is rushing off in such a hurry. When he tells Candy, she decides to get back at Amos and Swallow by telling the whole town Swallow's secret, interrupting the revival meeting: "Wrestle With The Devil." The townspeople decide that the killer has to be found once and for all, in order to save the children: "The Hunt."

Swallow runs back to the barn to warn The Man that the whole town are heading for the barn to catch him- when he says he will have to try and run for it, she begs him to stay, promising that she will protect him. He tries to make her realize that he is not the person she thinks he is: "Nature of the Beast." But she says that she realizes that now, and simply needs him to be whoever he is. When the townspeople get to the barn, they find it surrounded by the kids who are determined not to let them hurt The Man. Swallow is trapped in the barn with him, and he says he will take her hostage, but quickly changes his mind and instead pushes her out of the barn to safety. Left alone, he sets fire to the barn, so that when Swallow manages to get back in, there's no trace of him left. Swallow is convinced he hasn't left for good, saying, "He'll be back...I just know he will." Her father tries to make her see that he wasn't Jesus. She still isn't completely convinced, asking, "But how do you know?" The family, together again, sing "Whistle Down The Wind."


* subsequently replaced with "The Gang" (also known as "The Tribe," lyrics by Don Black)
** subsequently removed

1998 Winter Olympics[edit]

At the opening ceremonies of the Nagano 1998 Winter Olympics, a Japanese version of the song When Children Rule the World was performed by Japanese singer Ryoko Moriyama. Performing along with her were 150 yukinkos (Japanese for "snow children").


  1. ^ http://www.officialcharts.com/artist/_/tina%20arena/
  2. ^ Billington, Michael (28 March 2006). "Whistle Down the Wind". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 22 May 2007. 
  3. ^ Nightingale, Benedict (29 March 2006). "Whistle Down the Wind". The Times (London). Retrieved 22 May 2007. 
  4. ^ [1] Archived 4 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ [2] Archived 21 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ [3] Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Adam Hetrick. "Lloyd Webber's Whistle Down the Wind Launches U.S. Tour Sept. 9". Playbill.com. Retrieved 2013-07-25. 
  8. ^ http://www.gwinnettdailypost.com/news/2014/jul/24/buford-theater-closes-third-season-with-lesser/?living

External links[edit]