'Wind In The Willows' Is A Rollicking, Hilarious Ride

By: Amy Tagliaferri

Topics: Local Theater

Molly Funk as Mole, Gracie O'Leary as Toad and Jenn Pina as Rat in “The Wind In The Willows” at the Cape Cod Theatre Company/Harwich Junior Theatre. SHILOH PABST PHOTO

You would have thought Harwich saw enough wind this summer, right? But “The Wind in the Willows” is a different kind of wind; it’s a whirlwind of delight. The only trees harmed in this production at the Cape Cod Theatre Company/Harwich Junior Theatre are the ones Mr. Toad hits with his car. “The true purpose of life?” he screams. “Cars!” Yes, Mr. Toad loves cars and his love for cars will prove to be his downfall.

Mr. Toad of Toad Hall is just one of the beloved characters from Kenneth Grahame’s popular children’s book “The Wind in the Willows.” In Joseph Baldwin’s stage adaptation, you’ll meet Toad’s best friends Mr. Badger, Mr. Mole and Mr. Rat (“Ratty”) along with Mrs. Otter, her grandson Portly and a devious gang of weasels, all cleverly brought to life under the skillful hand of the Cape Cod Theatre Company/Harwich Junior Theatre’s director Jane Staab. With an inventive twist, Staab has injected new life into the classic with contemporary music adding an insightful postscript to the present story lines. The talented cast embraces both the script and the music, making this a must-see show and a grand way to wrap up summer 2019 at the Division Street theater. It’s a lively and laugh-out-loud fun production!

Molly Funk (Mr. Mole), Jenn Pina (Mr. Rat) and James P. Byrne (Mr. Badger) are a terrific trio. And you know you’re in for a great show with the opening segment involving the three. But when Gracie O’Leary (Mr. Toad) literally tumbles on to the stage, the momentum of the production moves up a notch. “Gracie is such a talent, she is going to be a star one day,” said CCTC/HJT’s producing artistic director, Nina Schuessler. O’Leary certainly is the star of this production. The opening night audience was filled with children and their infectious laughter bubbled up with each and every enthusiastic facial expression, pratfall and booming bellow the young actor executed. The weasel gang (Steve Carter, Perry Ainsley Gill, Ella Adamsons, Henry Cramer, Arlo Danielson, Sam Haber, Angelina Cuthbert Manchuk, Xevi Pina Parker and Lily Pierce) along with Mr. and Mrs. Weasel (Paul Widegren and Fran Covais Lautenberger) were animated and energetic as they filled with stage. Their exuberant entrances and exits were delightfully chaotic, and they enacted Laurel Conrad’s lively choreography wonderfully.

Another scene stealer was young Ashlynn Nee as Portly Otter. The young actor literally bounced around with mischievous glee. The expressive and gifted Karen McPherson never disappoints and she certainly didn’t here as Mrs. Otter. The rest of the cast were equally as gifted: Edward Donovan (Chauffeur), Jack Watts (Policeman), Ed Coppola (Jailer) and Caroline Hussey (Penelope).

Lautenberger’s costume design terrifically suggested the animals the actors were portraying. For instance, Toad’s costume of a green plaid waistcoat and knickers over green tights suggested both a toad and the opulence of a toad who lives in a mansion. Byrne’s dramatic set and lighting design was spot on, as was J Hagenbuckle’s sound design. Along with the musical punchlines, a mood was often set with birds chirping and a motor varooming. And we know it takes a village to create a village on a stage. Kudos to Matt Kohler (tech director), Abby Feinstein (assistant tech director), Susie Davis-Broff (stage manager and lightboard operator), Marybeth Travis (props), Tess O’Leary and Seamus Sartin (sound operators) and Matt Montiero (backstage crew) for a job well done.

This production has it going on! It really is non-stop fun. The entire show is about 90 minutes long with a brief intermission, and is an easy sit for children of even a young age. Adults will enjoy it too.



"The Wind in the Willows"
At Cape Cod Theatre Company/Harwich Junior Theatre, 105 Division St., West Harwich
Through Aug. 30, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 4 p.m.
Information and reservations: 508-432-2002 ext. 2, www.capecodtheatrecompany.org