From first glance of the magical set for Toad of Toad Hall, currently being staged by Red Deer College visual arts, audiences know they are in for a special theatrical experience.
Adapted by Philip Goulding from the novel The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, Toad of Toad Hall features beloved characters Ratty, Mole, Badger and of course the mischievous Mr. Toad in a charming tale as the gang helps Toad regain Toad Hall after the sneaky weasels have snapped up ownership.
The show continues its run Nov. 30-Dec. 3 on the Arts Centre mainstage. Curtain is 7:30 p.m. There is also a weekend matinee Dec. 3 at 1 p.m.
Audiences follow the madcap adventures of the wealthy Mr. Toad from his arrest for stealing a motorcar to his trial, imprisonment and his daring escape. Now, with a little help from his buddies, Toad launches into a plan to fight the weasels and regain his stunning country home.
From start to finish, the defining word for this production is delightful. Although especially a treat for kids, there’s no doubt the grown-ups will enjoy the adventure. Director Lynda Adams has put together a terrific show, particularly in bringing out the very best in her small but clearly gifted cast.
As the “incorrigible and irresponsible” Mr. Toad, Andres F. Moreno does a superb job of capturing his quirky, hilarious traits. Toad may be a bit on the self-absorbed side at times, but he’s got a big heart just the same and is always up for fun and adventure. Morena injects the part with so much life and energy, and is certainly the play’s ‘centre’.
Tucker New is also exceptional as the comparatively stoic and level-headed Badger – kind of a stern but gentle and caring father figure to his rambunctious companions which include Mole (Elise Dextraze) and Ratty (Kelly Kozakevich).
Both actors also bring plenty of joy to their respective roles, and really help draw audiences into the overall essence of the story via their portrayals of Toad’s lovable and loyal companions.
Kudos as well to Adam Hynes and Danielle Bye who each play four roles, and do so wonderfully. As Lord and Lady Moreton-Pinkney they are simply terrific. Hynes is also outstanding as Trevor the train engineer and Bye was a hoot as the plucky ticket collector. Doing so well with a range of roles showcases the versatility of these actors. Overall, the entire cast captured the heart and soul of the story and no doubt left some audience members with a desire to pick up The Wind in the Willows once again.
Designer Carrie Hamilton has worked her usual magic via the transformation of the stage and adjacent areas into a virtual playground nestled cozily in a natural surrounding for the characters’ adventures.
It’s also a treat how the cast interacts with the audience, at times appearing at the sides of auditorium and treating us like we are, in a sense, part of the ongoing adventure as it unfolds.
Of course, it has to be pointed out how critical the creative team is to the success of RDC’s productions.
It’s always a pleasure to see what Patrick Beagan and Sui-Fan Wong come up with through their exceptional lighting and sound designs respectively. Sheena Haug’s costume designs couldn’t have been better – matching the personalities of the characters perfectly.
Matt Gould has also done a top-notch job providing musical direction for the lively set of tunes written by Greg Morrison. Although the numbers are few, they certainly add sparkle to the show from the opening cut Down By the River to Toad’s Sad Pity Ditty and Ratty’s Lullaby.
For tickets to Toad of Toad Hall, call the Black Knight Inn Ticket Centre at 403-755-6626 or visit www.bkticketcentre.ca.