Wind in the Willows

IAN CLARKE Norwich Theatre Royal

IAN CLARKE

> Norwich Theatre Royal

He may have been joking during the interval when he likened organising the hundreds of youngsters in this production to planning the D-Day landings.

But director David Lambert certainly had good reason to highlight the hugely impressive logistical feat of bringing together such a huge cast in such a short time - and he deserves massive praise for ensuring such an excellent end product.

The enchanting musical adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's famous old story is the annual production by the Theatre Royal's Youth Theatre Company.

About 180 youngsters aged eight to 20 were on stage for last night's opening performance and by the end of this week, the majority of the 500-plus students who take part in the arts courses will have been involved.

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The principal roles remain the same for the seven shows, but the chorus changes and so gives many juniors the wonderful chance to perform at such a prestigious venue.

From the moment the curtain went up to the time 2½ hours later when the large audience gave a deserved rousing final ovation, the huge cast oozed enthusiasm, energy and talent.

Toad (Daniel Burgess), Ratty (Sam Claflin) and Badger (Gareth Parry) were true quality and the lovable group of duck washerwomen worked terrifically well together.

If it were possible to list every other performer, they would be entitled to the credit.

The equivalent of just two full weeks of rehearsals are available for this mammoth production.

With so much depth throughout the cast, the future of live theatre in Norfolk looks very rosy.

Ian Clarke

t Wind In The Willows continues at the Theatre Royal until Saturday August 6 with shows at 7pm. There is also a 2pm matinee on Saturday. Tickets cost £4 and £6.50. Box office number is 01603 630000.

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