Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Wind in the Willows"

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note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Carl A. Rossi


adapted by Alan Bennett from the novel by Kenneth Grahame
directed and designed by John Fogle

Mole … Kenneth Walker
Rat … Jim Butterfield
Toad … Stephen Cooper
Badger … James Robinson
Albert … Deborah Linehan
Chief Weasel … Shawn Maguire
Weasel Norman … Barbara Lasovick
Weasel Wilfred / Bargewoman … Bernadette Adams
Ferret Gerald … Elisha Musgraves
Ferret Fred / Washerwoman … Lisa Cosseboom
Rabbit Rose … Allie Theriault
Rabbit Robert … Shamus Russell
Squirrel Shirley … Nikki Escalada
Squirrel Sammy … Anastasia Rutkowski
Fox … Julie Korzenik
Hedgehog Herbert … Nick Neyeloff
Hedgehog Harold / Rupert / Clerk … Michael Hall
Monica / Gaoler’s Daughter / Gypsy … Heidi Duncan
Parkinson / Magistrate / Train Driver … Jim Soucy

The Mugford Street Players shows its whimsical side with its production of THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS, the Kenneth Grahame children’s classic as dramatized by Alan Bennett. Ratty, Mole, Badger and the incorrigible Toad still have their adventures along the river, in the woods and on the road with some songs added and the villainous weasels and ferrets being given greater prominence but Ratty and Mole’s bachelor co-existence has undergone a sea change which I will attribute to Mr. Bennett: the witty, nature-loving Ratty now becomes a crusty, kindly grandfather-figure to Mole’s wide-eyed lad (a short-lived Broadway musical, two decades ago, went even further and offered a male Ratty-female Mole combination with hints of romance). Such bowdlerizing may satisfy the not-so-purists while those who love Mr. Grahame’s book will deem it as so much poking around in empty closets.

I was told beforehand that the original London production was a lavish affair but director-designer John Fogle demonstrates that Mr. Bennett’s adaptation works just as well on a shoestring and filled with topical updates, especially when bolstered by delightful playing from Mugford regulars in the leading roles, particularly Stephen Cooper and James Robinson whose Toad and Badger are lifted right off the printed page; Deborah Linehan is very funny as a long-suffering horse with a Russian femme fatale accent. Jim Butterfield does what he can with the revised Ratty, complete with tail hanging down behind him, and demonstrates enough gravelly charm in his song-and-dance to reinforce my hunch that he would make a definitive Archie Rice under Mr. Fogle’s guidance.

"The Wind in the Willows" (29 July - 7 August)
Marblehead High School, 2 Humphrey Street, MARBLEHEAD, MA
1 (781) 639-0195

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide