Rufus Hound in The Wind in The Willows. Photo by Marc-Brenner

The Wind In The Willows – Review Round-up

A reviews round-up for The Wind In The Willows at the London Palladium.

The highly-anticipated major new musical adaptation of The Wind In The Willows has opened to a whimper at the London Palladium.

It’s a perfectly pleasant adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s treasured novel from Oscar-winning screenwriter and Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes and Olivier Award-winning composer and lyricist team George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, but one that lacks imagination.

Rufus Hound as Mr Toad does his best, the choreography is inventive and the design is lavish, but this new adaptation appears to have underwhelmed most critics.

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Read our round-up of reviews below

The Wind In The Willows runs until 9 September 2017 at London Palladium.

Average rating score for this production


““Poop, poop”, as Toad so aptly puts it. Rachel Kavanaugh’s production of The Wind in the Willows is sometimes cute, sometimes raucous but mostly flaccid. Julian Fellowes’s adaptation strings together a series of episodes. Animals prance in striped leggings, claw the air and twitch.” “Peter McKintosh’s design is a fluorescent blare. Anthony Drewe’s lyrics – “Spring… season of hope… birds start to sing” – are limp. Still, George Stiles’s music – a bit of Gilbert and Sullivan, a bit of Flanders and Swann – is often cleverly catchy. There is some charm from the wassailing mice. And weasels, stoats and foxes, banding together as the Wildwooders, do glam rock very ably. They make you long for their version of this staid story. The blast in the forest.” “A technical hitch gave rise to a welcome burst of spontaneity from Rufus Hound as Mr Toad in this otherwise tame tale of wildlife.” Susannah Clapp, The Observer

“Although finessing has apparently gone on since then, the fundamental issue hasn’t been addressed: this show is burdened by an insufferable twee-ness.” “Full marks as well to Simon Lipkin for his drolly down-to-earth Rat and to Craig Mather for his Harry Potter-ish Mole (Gary Wilmot is, perhaps mercifully for him, almost unrecognisable as gruffly disapproving Badger). Yet neither the capable principals nor the pretty costumes nor the spirited choreography can hide the fact that this is a trial, a sentence, an incarceration from which one wishes one could escape dressed as a washer-woman. “Poop-poop!” Toad cries. Too right.” Dominic Cavendish, Telegraph

“Meandering journey is too twee” “A family musical, just in time for the school holidays? It sounds promising, but at every turn this lavish take on Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 novel chooses sweetness over mischief. Its air of wholesome safety is so pervasive that even a posse of breakdancing squirrels manages to seem inoffensive.” “Fellowes introduces a few topical notes — Toad is a capitalist landowner, an object of loathing for the marauding weasels who declare that ‘Property is theft’. Yet at root this is a nostalgic celebration of rural life and the rewards of friendship.” “Rachel Kavanaugh’s production, though picturesque and deftly choreographed, is slow to exert any grip. It’s bland and more than a little twee.” Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard

"Julian Fellowes (book), George Stiles (music) and Anthony Drewe (lyrics) ... do a perfectly decent job and the result is harmlessly pleasant, I feel such a familiar story cries out for a big, original idea." "If there is a theme to this show, it lies in the Edwardian discovery of speed – and Peter McKintosh’s design allows us to share Toad’s transports of delight as he steals open-topped sports cars and escapes his pursuers in an onrushing steam train." Michael Billington, The Guardian

“This musical from Julian Fellowes, George Stiles and Anthony Drewe feels adrift in 2017, a supposedly family-orientated show that’s a bit long and scary for little kids, and too slow moving and stuffed with Gilbert and Sullivan-esque wordplay to be of great interest to older ones.” “Mainly, though, it’s just a bit bland, with inoffensive characters meeting wordy songs, and too many fillery nods to minor events from the book. There are a couple of spirited numbers from the villains, but there’s a lack of any great vision behind it all – no twinkle in its eye, just a complacent trundling out of a century-old story with the expectation it’ll be lapped up by default.” Andrzej Lukowski, TimeOut

“This tale is all about speed and yet this underpowered musical just never really takes off. Poop, poop? More like pfffft, pfffft” “As I was leaving the theatre, I heard the woman behind me describing this musical as sweet. “And I loved the hedgehogs!” she cried. But just as one swallow does not make a summer, neither does “sweet” make a musical to remember, at least not for very long. This will not do, at least for me, and surely not for Mole and Ratty either, for Kenneth Grahame’s bucolic tale deserves better.” “This is the latest endeavour from the winning team of Julian Fellowes (script), George Stiles (music) and Anthony Drewe (lyrics). They have collaborated, to great success, on Mary Poppins and Half a Sixpence. But this offering, as pleasant as it is, is not in the same league.” Ann Treneman, Sunday Times

"Rufus Hound brings all his raffish bluster to the role, the epitome of a tweedy, boyish country gent. He’s brilliantly larger than life, with more than a glint of mischief in his wide grin as he prances and preens in shades of luminous green. He’s easily the best thing about this show" "in its clean aesthetic, in its inoffensive, almost humourless book, in its unenlightening songs, the whole production feels a world away from anything remotely pastoral and, as a consequence, it’s all rather bland." Tim Bano, The Stage

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