Overall, this production felt messy and disjointed. Demonstrating this perfectly, is the contrast between almost exciting and engaging ensemble numbers, sandwiched between a considerable amount of grade three-esque tap. There was not a wing or a time step in sight, which was as irritating as it was lazy. Boring dancing isn’t the only issue, though.
Stiles and Drewe’s score isn’t disastrous by any stretch, but it is disjointed with the rest of the production. The singular song about swallows seemed like it may have been plucked from a different musical and put in because they needed some female roles and some high notes. The harmonies were good, but they didn’t make up for the lack of sense that the song made.
Unsurprisingly, Simon Lipkin stood out. He is charming and witty, and while I haven’t consistently enjoyed his previous performances, he proved his versatility in the role of Rat, making the audience laugh on several occasions. Craig Mather was an endearing little mole. His voice was pleasing as ever and I genuinely believed that he was a terrified mole when he trembled on the floor. I don’t know what more you can ask for, when acting a mole.
Denise Welch was, well, she was Denise Welch. I am unsure whether it’s just impossible to see a Loose Woman as an otter, or whether she actually just wasn’t that great. Speaking of otters, their costumes looked like something out of a school play. Albeit a relatively well organised school play but ‘uniform’ was about as complimentary as I could get about their skirt and leggings combo. Surprising, again, given that all of Toad’s costumes were by no means tacky.
Rufus Hound’s Toad was believable while considerably overplayed. The Toad4601 joke didn’t go unnoticed by me, but I fear it may have done by most of the rest of the already small audience. Toad’s flight across the top of the audience also added very little; and I fear that a production which is clearly not selling as many tickets as they’d like to be, may have made a slightly reckless decision.
The fundamental problem with this production is that it’s ideal audience is six year olds, but six year olds can’t afford to go the the theatre. I went with an 11 year old and even she thought it was silly. It has been proven across the arts that it is possible to provoke significant emotion while appealing to both younger audiences and their parents – even grandparents, but this show didn’t come anywhere close to achieving that. While there were some genuine laughs, the tag line ‘A Friend Is Still A Friend’ epitomises the lack of emotional content and real substance throughout.