The 90-minute musical is an adaptation of Kenneth Grahames classic novel about the adventures of Toad, Ratty, Mole and other woodland creatures living in the English countryside.
But other than the source material, this show has pure Olympia origins: It was written by actor-director-playwright Andy Gordon and composed by Harlequin Productions music director Bruce Whitney.
And thats only the beginning of the list of well-known local theater folks involved in the production.
What has been so amazing about this project is at its heart, its a story about friendship, said director Jenny Greenlee. As weve been putting together the show, weve been able to draw on the friendships that Andy and I have developed over the years. Andy has two decades in theater in Olympia, and I have 15 years.
The theme of what friends human or animal are willing to do for one another has long fascinated Gordon, who has loved the novel since he was a child.
Its a story that Ive come back to, he said. Id read it every few years and reconnect with it. There was something about the story that stuck with me.
He decided to adapt it for the stage back in 1995, when he was acting in a production of Dracula at Harlequin.
It seems to be a show about a guy with fangs, but really it is about the people who are affected by him and the ways in which they choose to step up and defend the people and things they care about, he said.
And different though the two shows are, that theme runs through The Wind in the Willows as well.
The main character is Toad of Toad Hall, Gordon said. Toad is very capricious and has impulse-control problems. Why do these other creatures care about him? Why do they do the things they do for him?
There is a line in the show: Friendship is not a thing you say; its a thing you do.
Greenlee, who directed Gordon in OFTs Charlottes Web in 2009, shares his passion for the book. My grandmother read the book to me, she said. I had grown up with the story and the characters.
Grahames language is really descriptive and beautiful, and thats what stuck with me.
They began talking about it, and a collaboration began. It was a collaboration that involved 80 or 90 drafts (the first a full three-hours long); three readings; and a lot of teamwork both during the development of the project and during the rehearsal process.
Among the other theater mainstays involved in the production:
Jason Haws, wholl play Toad. Haws is a regular at Harlequin, where he gathers critical acclaim for his work in challenging leading roles, and directs for Creative Theater Experience summer youth theater program.
Heidi Fredericks, who did the choreography. Fredericks directed Capital Playhouses Nuncrackers, running through Dec. 16, and is the artistic director of the playhouses Students on Stage program.
Bryan Willis, who guided Gordon in developing the script. Willis is the playwright in residence for the Northwest Playwrights Alliance. His work was included in the Prodigal Sun/Theater Artists Olympias fall production, A Improbable Peck of Plays.
Daven Tillinghast, who along with Gordon and Whitney wrote lyrics for new songs. Tillinghast is best known as a guitarist and is often heard in Harlequin Productions musical revues.
Jill Carter, who built the set. Carter, who did set design for many years at Harlequin, had her work cut out for her on this show, which has characters visit 13 locations in 90 minutes.
Its very fast paced, Greenlee said. We had to figure out how we could move among the locations without losing momentum.
The other thing that represents a design challenge is that we have cars and boats and a gypsy caravan, the director said. We did some really amazing building out of cardboard and papier-mâché, so we have a 6-foot-long car and a pretty much full-size gypsy caravan.