Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

Winds of Magic Through the Willows
Aux Dog
Review by Rob Spiegel

Also see Stephanie's reviews of Cinderella: The E! True Hollywood Story and Nutcracker on the Rocks and Rob's review of A Christmas Carol


Tina Andrews and Lisa Fenstermacher
Photo by Irene Fertik
Kenneth Grahame is the hero and unofficial patron of all parents who, like me, make up stories for their children. Grahame developed the ideas and narrative for his novel "The Wind in the Willows" by making up bedtime stories for his only son Alistair. When Grahame retired as secretary of the Bank of England, he moved to the country where he was raised and published the stories in 1908. The resulting novel has been cherished by children and their parents for more than 100 years. It is far unlike contemporary children's stories. It moves from slow to fast, and the animals talk in a semi-formal British manner. Yet the story's charm crosses the century in fine shape.

This stage adaption of The Wind in the Willows by England's Mike Kenny dates back to 2010. The music comes from Christopher Madin. Kenny's take on the classic is mostly faithful to the novel, though he does skip quickly through the mystical and ethereal "Piper at the Gates of Dawn," which is fine, since that wonderful passage is more literary and less action oriented. Not as good a fit for the stage.

The Aux Dog production, directed by Kir Kipness, draws well on the story's charm, never sacrificing the beautiful language for quick intelligibility. The kids in the audience at the performance I attended—which was overflowing by the way—clearly understood the narrative perfectly. Their full-throated laughter was proof.

The acting is wonderful throughout. Hats off to the sweet-innocent Mole (Lisa Fenstermacher) and the pompous-but-lovable Mr. Toad (Warren Asa Wilgus). These are critical roles that have to be nail explicitly to make sure the play holds together. The rest of the cast is also strong, particularly Robert Landry as Ratty and Tina Andrews as Miss Badger. Adding to the overall charm of the production is the live music by Nathaniel Flake (conductor, keyboards and flute), Nancy Cochrell (guitar), and Lisa Nichols (flute and alto sax).

Much like the novel itself, the stage version of The Wind in the Willows works for both child and adult. While the novel leans more heavily on mysticism, the play spends more attention on the adventure. The rich language and textured story are a treat for all ages. The Sunday performance was sold out. This may well be the case for the remainder of the run, so best to make your reservations early.

The Wind in the Willows is the first production of the Aux Dog's Children's Theatre. A couple of months ago, Producing Artistic Director Victoria Liberatori announced that Kir Kipness and Lisa Fenstermacher would be the leaders of the new venture. Kipness and Fenstermacher will spearhead the educational initiative as directors of children's arts programming. The goal of Aux Dog Children's Theatre is "to empower, mentor, and educate future generations to become life-long lovers of the performing arts by providing affordable, professional theatre education and performance experience to young people."

Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows by Mike Kenny, score by Christopher Madin, and directed Kir Kipness, will run at the Aux Dog Theatre on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:00 pm, and Sundays at 2:00 pm through December 20, 2015. Tickets are $15 for general, $12 for discounts, and $8 for children under 15. Reserve tickets at auxdog.com or by calling 254-7716 or by going online at auxdog.com.


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