By Kenneth Grahame
Adapted, music & lyrics and directed by Douglas Post
Choreographer by Brenda Didier
Musical arrangements by Kevin O’Donnell
At City Lit Theater
Classic fairy tale rings hollow
The Wind in the Willows, a musical, adapted by Douglas Post from Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 children’s novel is a hard show to classify since it is more that a children’s musical but not adult proof. I left City Lit Theater with mixed feeling about this show. It is uneven, tries too hard to please, and it lacks charm.
My main problem was that I didn’t care much for the lead character- Toad who was played by Thomas M. Shea as an over-the-top, obnoxious, impulsive and conceited wealth animal. Shea screams and speaks too fast with a manic manner that irritates more than entertains. I simply didn’t care about this Toad. I found it difficult to understand why the Rat (Jeremy Trager in a winning performance) and his pal, the Mole (Jessica Anne Cook) would be friends and care about the narcissistic Toad. And why the wise hermit-Badger (Edward Kuffert) would organize Mole and Rat to help Toad regain his mansion is still a mystery to me?
As a musical, Post has written in a variety of styles from the folksy opening number–“The Wind in the Willows”–a optimistic anthem; to an assortment of rock, reggea, tin-pan ally, spirituals, ballads and a Gilbert and Sullivan styled patter song, we hear a pleasing score that had some difficulties for the singers due to sound problems with the pre-recorded track. The cast featured some shaky voices but the harmonies were fine. The British accents varied greatly.
I think the show suffered from an inconsistent tone–was it a satire or a children’s morality tale? To me it played like a melodrama and a comedy mixture that ran too long wearing out its welcome. For many, the energy and the smart movement together with the ambitious score will make this show an eclectic musical treat.
At City Lit Theater, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr, Chicago, IL, call 773-293-3682, www.citylit.org, tickets $25, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm with Thursdays performances on December 17, 24 & 31 at 8 pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission.