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Wednesday, July 24, 2024


July 1, 2003 – Back in the days before Kermit the Frog, there was Mr. Toad, the hero of sorts in "The Wind in the Willows," Kenneth Grahame's classic children's story.
Nowadays Toad, too, has taken on a show-biz persona, in a musical called "The Mad Adventures of Mr. Toad" that will be presented July 10-13 on St. Thomas as Pistarckle Theater's children's summer camp production.
The musical, written by Vera Morris with music and lyrics by Scott DeTurk, features songs with such enticing titles as "Come to the Wood," "Down with the Toad," "Quiet Drive in the Country," "Don't Do the Crime" and "Sucker for a Pretty Face," all of which can be sampled online at the Mad Mr. Toad Web site. Others, not on the sampler, are called "A Danger to Society" and "The Good Life."
Holli Hornlien, a regular Pistarckle guest director, is in charge of the production.
Grahame, a Scotsman whose marriage was miserable and whose day job was as a secretary at the stodgy Bank of England, dabbled in writing — light non-fiction as well as children's stories — for years on the side. "The Wind in the Willows," which had its beginnings as a letter to his young son, Alistair, first appeared in book form in 1908.
According to one Web analysis, the book reflected the author's unhappiness in the real world. A kind of cross between the irrepressible Kermit and The Great Gatsby, the protagonist is the master of Toad Hall. The major theme of the story is the struggle between the noisy, common way of life of the Wild Wooders and the quiet and genteel lifestyle of the River-Bankers.
Toad's friends Badger, Mole and Rat are in the latter category, and Toad is an endearing eccentric who does not fit well into either camp.
In the musical, promoted online as an "upbeat" version of Grahame's book, the compulsive-obsessive Toad is addicted to motorcars — keep in mind, this is 1908, when motorcars were about as avant garde as you could get — and ends up crashing them with great regularity. Despite the best efforts of his friends, a "hysterical" court hearing lands Toad in jail for his reckless driving.
With Toad behind bars, his Wild Wooder enemies the weasels plot to take over Toad Hall. The jailer's daughter Polly helps Toad escape dressed as a washerwoman. When Toad finally meets up with his friends again, they devise a scheme to recapture Toad Hall. There — now you know the plot, and that should in no way detract from your enjoyment of the show.
Show times for "The Mad Adventures of Mr. Toad" are 1 and 8 p.m. on July 10 (the latter performance is the usual Pistarckle Pay-as-You-Can Night), 8 p.m. on July 11 ("opening night"), and 2 p.m. on July 12 and 13.
Single tickets are $8 for children and $12 for adults. In groups of 10 or more, children pay $5. Ticket outlets are Draughting Shaft, Havensight Pharmacy, Bumpa's on the Waterfront, Tillett Gallery, Marina Market and the American Yacht Harbor office. Reservations may be made by calling 775-7877.

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