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Review: The Wind in the Willows at Davenport Junior Theater

Moms and Dads, Grandmas and Grandpas, Aunties and Uncles, Godparents and anyone who fosters children, load those kiddos up and take them to Davenport Junior Theatre’s production of the musical version of The Wind in the Willows based on the classic novel by Kenneth Grahame and adapted for stage by the incomparable Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey fame with charming music by George Stiles and precious lyrics by Anthony Drewe. The result is an absolutely enchanting rendition of the story that teaches that true friendship can overcome any obstacle.

Located at 2822 Eastern Avenue in Davenport in the Annie Wittenmeyer Complex, DJT boasts of being “theatre for children, by children.” Kids are involved in ALL aspects of production from construction, to props, to stage crew to performers, kids put on the show. Wow. Isn’t that exciting? And they’ve been doing this since 1951.

The kids do themselves proud with this show. It’s a gargantuan cast with choruses of mice, rabbits, hedgehogs, and foxes who support the main characters of Mole, Rat, Badger and Mr. Toad. The choreography is delightful including some roller skating critters, the costumes and sets are adorable and clever, including three large triangular columns that can be rotated to change the set. In fact, most of the set pieces are on casters so an army of kids can swarm the stage to change things up at warp speed. Truly, I’ve seen adult productions that would be put to shame by these kids.

Time prevents me from giving a synopsis of the story, so if you and yours are unfamiliar with this classic, I’d suggest you Google it ahead of time. It will help to follow the story. After all, these are child performers so they’re not perfect, but they ARE impressive and I can’t wait to see them grow up and hopefully perform in the many adult venues around the Quad Cities.

Assuming the pivotal role of Mr. Toad is the energetic13 year-old, Jack Carslake. Jack shines in his over the top performance, particularly in the scene where he escapes from prison disguised as a woman.

Also bringing in a stellar performance is 17 year-old William Sivula as the kindly Rat. His performance is fluid and he has one of the stronger singing voices.

But the best experience of the afternoon was seeing the delight in my foster granddaughters’ eyes as they took in the joy and wonder of live theatre. Cora, age 9, and Agnes, age 7, both gave the show two thumbs up.

The Wind in the Willows continues at the Mary Fluher Nighswander Theatre in Davenport ’s Annie Wittenmyer Complex with two performances on Saturday, February 18 at 1:00 and 4:00 p.m. and Sunday, February 19 at 3:00 p.m.