Pick ASR!  ~~ “The Wind in the Willows” the Musical: Classic Children’s Story is Fun for All

By Cari Lynn Pace

 Want to watch a friendly rat give a boat ride to a timid mole? In this charming tale of forest creatures and friendship, Spreckels Theatre assembled a talented cast of nineteen. Many are well-known veterans of Bay Area stages. Director Sheri Lee Miller wisely lets these pros have a blast with their roles, and the show is a winner for it.

“…these pros have a blast with their roles, and the show is a winner for it.” 

It’s spring, and the woods are jumping with singing animals in colorful costumes designed by Donnie Frank. It’s not entirely clear which animal is which, but they’re having a joyful party in the leafy glade.

Sean O’Brien takes the central role of Mole, befriended by Nelson Brown as Rat. They strike up a friendship and are entreated to help Mrs. Otter (Molly Larsen-Shine) track down her headstrong daughter Portia (Nicole Stanley).

Into their midst zooms Toad (Tim Setzer), as green as a toad should be, on a low-riding tricycle or some such vehicle. The youthful audience screams their delight. The always-delightful Setzer is over-the-top and steals every scene, which any respectable toad will do. Toad is addicted to fast motorcars, his or anyone else’s. He nabs a sports car, and that lands him in court.

“Wind In The Willows” cast at work.

Meanwhile, in the dark wild woods, a jumping Weasel – kudos to the athleticism of Keene Hudson – hungers to take over Toad’s castle, Toad Hall. Weasel and his minions can only be thwarted by Badger, a commanding role by Mary Gannon Graham. Rat and Mole seek her out and beg her to chase out Weasel and the squatters and help stop Toad’s need for speed. Will she do it for her friends?

The Wind in the Willows delivers songs with clever lyrics, although this reviewer found some of the lyrics a bit difficult to hear clearly, due to the twelve-piece orchestra directed by Lucas Sherman. Scene changes happen smoothly with superb visuals using the rear-screen projection so beloved by the Spreckels audience. Karen Miles choreographed dances that the animals, err, actors happily perform. The entire cast seem to have as much fun in this adventure as the audience does.

All singing, all dancing when the wind is “In The Willows” at Spreckels Theatre.

The Wind in the Willows overflows with fantasy and energy. Perfect for young and old, it’s a giant-scale school musical by adults pretending to be animals. As the audience exited, one mom said to her child “You did very well—you sat through your first live show.” The child answered simply “I liked it.”  Spreckels offers special $10 tickets for patrons  18 and under.


ASR Writer & Editor Cari Lynn Pace is a voting member of SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle and writes theatre and lifestyle reviews for the Marinscope Community Newspapers throughout Marin County.


ProductionThe Wind in the Willows
Written byJulian Fellowes, based on the book by Kenneth Grahame
Music and Lyrics byGeorge Stiles and Anthony Drewe
Directed bySheri Lee Miller
Producing CompanySpreckels Theatre Co.
Production DatesThrough May 19th
Production AddressSpreckels Performing Arts Center
5409 Snyder Lane
Rohnert Park, CA 94928
Telephone(707) 588-3429
Tickets$10 for 18 & under, $20 adult
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Aisle Seat Review Pick?YES!