Author Kenneth Grahame’s famous Toad is back in the driving seat, terrifying all and sundry with his reckless mania for speed – but, on the night I went, it wasn’t Rufus Hound in the starring role but understudy Chris Aukett, drafted in as the accident-prone amphibian when Hound succumbed to a throat infection. He did pretty well, too, in this new musical packed with woolly-eared riverbank and woodland creatures – from mauve and grey striped otters to bushy-tailed red squirrels and from sweetly singing mice to scheming stoats and spivvy, villainous weasels.
Adapted by Downton’s Julian Fellowes from the 1908 children’s novel (and with music and lyrics from, respectively, George Stiles and Anthony Drewe) it’s a lively, moderately likeable – rather than memorable – affair which attractively conjures up the change of seasons along the leaf-fronded riverbank as Ratty solidifies a new friendship with Craig Mather’s Mole and reluctantly mends a broken one with the thoughtless, wealthy Toad.
Highlights include prickly hedgehog parents trying to teach their little ones to cross the road without getting squashed (they decide it’s just too dangerous), Gary Wilmot’s elderly but crystal clear Badger and, especially, Simon Lipkin’s Rat who not only engages easily with the audience but also got the biggest laugh of the evening when dealing with an unscheduled mishap involving a disintegrating prop.
Argyll Street, W1F 7TF
Tube: Oxford Circus
Until 9th September 2017
£15.00- £65.00 + premium seats