The first-ever musical production of the classic children’s story The Wind in the Willows will hit the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre from Dec. 15 to 17.
The production, put on by Yellow Door Theatre Project — a theatre company comprised of young Niagara artists, ages eight to 18 — will bring the Kenneth Grahame classic to life with the help of distinguished Shaw Festival actors.
Shaw veteran Guy Bannerman will join the youth actors, taking the role of Badger, while seasoned Shaw performer Kelly Wong will take the role of Toad.
The music was composed by John-Luke Addison and the stage adaptations done by Barbara Worthy.
“When I was considering a selection for the 2017 season, Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows came to mind. I have always loved the whimsy of this story and have had the pleasure of directing other versions in previous years,” said Andorlie Hillstrom, artistic director of Yellow Door Theatre Project, in a press release.
“It’s absolutely thrilling to be a part of a new work and to watch the development of this charming piece of theatre. I know that our audiences will be as delighted as I am when they see the final product.”
Shaw’s Kelly Wong said she’s also “thrilled” to be a part of the production and to work with the youth actors.
“From a very early age, I knew that I wanted to be an actor. I didn’t really know what that meant, except that I felt most at home when I was playing make-believe — whether that was with my brother filming movies on my dad’s camcorder, performing in a school play, or singing along to the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack in my room, I knew that I felt most alive when I was pretending,” said Wong.
“That’s why I’m so excited to get to pretend with this incredibly talented group of wonderful young artists. If we are able to give them an outlet for their creativity with this show, who knows what that might lead to down the line.”
Yellow Door has successfully presented Canadian adaptations of Peter Pan (2015) and The Little Prince (2016).
The company rehearses extensively from September through December for their annual main stage production, which gives young actors a chance to learn acting, vocal skills, dialects, stage combat, dance and elements of production under the guidance of professional instructors.
Yellow Door holds auditions for youth each season. In the auditions, children from 10 to 13-years-old must recite a short poem from memory, while youth 14 to 18 must deliver a two-minute monologue, also from memory, and all ages must sing a song of their choice, approximately two minutes long and preferably a song from a musical.
Yellow Door Theatre Project is a charitable organization dedicated to changing the lives of our young students through “experience for life.” They are located in the new Redekopp Creative and Performing Arts Centre in the village of Virgil in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The Wind in the Willows production is supported by a grant from Niagara Investment in Culture.