Downton Abbey’s creator, Julian Fellowes, is to tackle another nostalgic period piece with his latest project, a musical version of Kenneth Grahame’s novel The Wind in the Willows.
Fellowes will be joined in the venture by West End and Broadway songwriting partnership George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. The trio successfully brought children’s classic Mary Poppins to the stage in 2004, in a production that went on to win two Olivier Awards and receive seven Tony Award nominations.
The Wind in the Willows tells the story of Mole, Ratty and Badger and their adventures in the beautiful, rural landscape of Edwardian England, with much of the action focusing on the comic antics of aristocratic wastrel Mr Toad.
Since its publication in 1908 the novel has been adapted for stage and screen on many occasions. Winnie the Pooh’s author, A A Milne, wrote a play from the book entitled Toad of Toad Hall in 1929, and Alan Bennett’s The Wind in the Willows premiered at the National Theatre in 1990 and has become a classic in its own right.
Looking at the creative challenge ahead, Julian Fellowes said: “The Wind in the Willows is one of our greatest classics, and as true and entertaining now as it has ever been. I am delighted and tremendously flattered to have been asked to write the book for the new musical. In fact, I suspect this is something I’ve been wanting to do subconsciously for many years.”
Composer George Stiles agreed: “Ever since working with Julian on Mary Poppins, the three of us have been looking for a new project.
“We all celebrate our English roots as writers, and the musical possibilities of Kenneth Grahame’s classic chime very strongly with me.
“The book itself is packed with music and songs so I can’t wait to find the sounds to score Ratty, Mole, Badger, Toad and their adventures.”