A SPIFFING adaptation of the quintessential British classic The Wind in the Willows is to be staged this Easter.

Warrington’s Encore Productions are putting the finishing touches to their version of the family friendly show which was recently in the West End.

The musical, based on the novel by Kenneth Grahame, was written by Julian Fellowes, the Oscar-winning creator of Downton Abbey, with music and lyrics by the Olivier Award-winning duo George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.

Seb Farrell, a former St Gregory’s RC High School student, is playing Mr Toad.

He said: “I think Wind in the Willows and The Darling Buds of May were the two things that influenced me most as a kid.

“I thought they were both brilliant. They were both about nature and they were the books and TV shows that made me love being British. It was all about another world and another time. Mr Toad’s a funny character because on the face of it he’s quite obnoxious and selfish but deep down he loves his friends.

Knutsford Guardian:

“I’m trying to get that across in the part as much as I can. I think the musical version only finished on the West End last year so it’s a new production and that’s another thing that drew me to it.

“It’s written by the stalwarts of British culture. Julian Fellowes wrote Downton Abbey and all those quintessentially British things are all in there.

“And composer George Stiles and lyricist Anthony Drewe are like the new big British double act.

“They did the new version of Mary Poppins and Half a Sixpence. So I had high expectations for Wind in the Willows which were more than met. It’s a really good musical.

“It’s quite true to the book as well which in many cases it never really is. But the references to motor vehicles and phrases like ‘spiffing’ and ‘what-what’ are all in there.

“It’s a really good adaptation of a classic book and it’s a good family friendly show.”

The show, featuring around 40 adults and 15 youngsters, will be at The Brindley in Runcorn from April 25 to 27.

Seb has been in rehearsals since November but it has been a bit of a balancing act for the 35-year-old as he is currently playing Galahad in Zodiac theatre group’s Spamalot.

He added: “Going from this chivalrous knight to singing about messing around on rivers and jumping in cars does get a bit crazy.

“I’m in Spamalot this week in Runcorn and I went from our tech run for that to preparations for Wind in the Willows.

“And there were four people stitching costumes together, another five people going over harmonies for a song, everybody else was learning the chorus numbers.

“There’s a really good community feel to it. Everybody’s pulling their weight and doing their own thing.”

Seb, who grew up in Old Hall and Penketh, also said he is having fun playing such an eccentric character.

“The only danger is to go too over the top,” he said.

“I’m probably going lose about two stone over the course of the week as even just in rehearsals I never stop running around, falling over and jumping in cars.

“It’s a really good part as Mr Toad is on stage quite a lot and when he’s not he’s being talked about.

“There’s a huge number called The Greatest Great Escape which is the scene where Toad famously escapes from prison dressed as a woman. We start the scene in Badger’s house as he’s telling the others what’s going on, we’re then on a train, then a barge, then a car.

“During all that there’s people running around in the audience trying to find him and there’s quite a lot going on with the set and the scenery changes.

“Nick Cupit is a great producer and can make scenes like that really flow. They’ll be lights and smoke machines so he’ll be able to make that look quite effective.”

Neil Atherton, secretary of Encore, added: “With a strong cast, delightful array of characters and a brilliantly funny script, Nick Cupit, the show’s producer, has no doubts that this show will entertain all members of the audience young and ‘not so young’.

“The company have taken this show to their hearts and their determination to succeed has been second to none.”

Wind in the Willows is being staged at The Brindley in Runcorn from April 27 to 29. Visit thebrindley.org.uk or call 0151 907 8360