Chief Weasel (Sam Sorokovsky)

Kal students don whiskers and fur for Wind in the Willows

Kalamalka Secondary School's Apple Box Theatre to present musical version of Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows.

For centuries, authors and auteurs have explored the world of anthropomorphism in their art.

The act of attributing human traits, emotions, and intentions to non-human entities can be found from George Orwell’s Animal Farm to Disney’s The Jungle Book, to The Planet of the Apes.

There is something fascinating about giving such traits as speech, consciousness, and even clothes to our animal friends to show our human frailties.

This is no more true than in the writings of British author Kenneth Grahame, who penned The Reluctant Dragon, and his most famous book, The Wind in the Willows, both of which were adapted into Disney movies.

It’s the latter work which Kalamalka Secondary School’s Apple Box Theatre is about to present to the stage as a musical.

The Wind in the Willows focuses on four anthropomorphised animals in a pastoral version of England.

“Everyone knows The Wind in the Willows, but they’re not completely sure where they know it from,” said Kal drama teacher Shon Thomas, who is directing the students in this production.

That’s probably because one of the book’s central characters, Mr. Toad, has been immortalized in two Disney films (The Wind in the Willows and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad), a stop motion television spin-off, Oh, Mr. Toad, and is even as a character on a Disneyland ride.

He is also the title character of A.A. Milne’s play, Toad of Toad Hall, based on Grahame’s book.

The Wind in the Willows was based off the characters of Mole, Rat and Toad, which started as Grahame’s Adventures of Mr. Toad. His daughter or niece wanted a longer story so he came up with The Wind in the Willows, which is more of a novella,” said Thomas.

In the book, Mr. Toad is met by Mole, Rat and Badger, who set off on adventures. Along the way, they encounter rabbits, weasels, stoats and other woodland creatures.

“The morals in the story are about friendship, tradition, and respect. It is a great story for kids,” said Thomas, adding, “The play follows the general story of the The Wind in the Willows, but because it is a musical adaptation, there has to be some additions and some subtractions. Where the book plods along, this has a quicker pace.”

The book also has some modern sentiments, mostly to do with Mr. Toad’s desire to have his own motorcar, along with traditional ones.

“When I read the notes in the play, the book is not set in any era, instead it is this magical anthropomorphical land,” said Thomas. “In our version, we’ve combined the Victorian era with mid-20s pre-Depression. In the book, it seems like it’s set in the 1800s until Toad starts stealing the car.”

Accompanying the Rodgers and Hammerstein penned musical numbers on piano is the show’s music director Elaine Viel, who has volunteered her time with Kal drama productions since 2005.

“The music is very accessible. Kids will love it,” said Thomas.

Besides the public, Kal Secondary is also presenting two shows to both Kidston and Coldstream elementary students.

“We’ve sent the music to them, so we hope they will sing along,” said Thomas.

The Wind in the Willows opens to the public at the school, Nov. 25 to 28 and Dec. 1 to 4, with evening shows at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:45 p.m.) and a matinée Nov. 28 at 2 p.m. Tickets are on sale at the school during lunch time or email sthomas@sd22.bc.ca.

 

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