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Whistle Down the Wind (Tour - Manchester)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Whistle Down The Wind is Andrew Lloyd Webber's retelling of the sixties film of the same name. The original text was based on Mary Hayley Bell's novel set in Lancashire. It has now been moved to deep south America in the late fifties although the reasoning for this is beyond me – maybe Lancashire just isn't glamorous enough.

The basic premise is that the children, having recently lost their mother and being brought up by their good hearted but poor father, find an escaped prisoner in their barn and in their naivety mistake him for Jesus. The children hide the man from the adults and keep the secret of Christ having come again and living in a barn.

Unfortunately a lot of time is spent on aspects of the production which have little to do with developing the story and more with giving the ensemble actors something to do. The arrival of a snake preacher in town appears to be irrelevant to any integral part of the plot. In attempting to put such a complex story onto the stage, there are huge chunks of plot missing that would help it make sense.

That aside, the show does have excellent singing but some of the acting seems a little lacking although this is probably more to do with with narrative than the fault of the actors themselves. Jonathan Ansell (The Man) seems restrained through the majority of the first act but the second act showcases his voice very well. Carly Bawden is an angelically voiced Swallow, but shows real power in the rockier numbers. Lincoln Stone is also worthy of mention as the children's father, Boone, although he seems somewhat underused.

As a musical it contains all the things you expect from an Andrew Lloyd Webber show – including the nods in the score back to earlier works.What saves this from being a typical ALW production is the few tracks where the music has been written by Jim Steinman – Lloyd Webber's collaborator. Steinman is credited as the lyricist but both "Tire Tracks and Broken Hearts" and "A Kiss Is A Terrible Thing To Waste" are pure rock in Steinman's Wagnerian style.

Whistle Down The Wind does not go down as a classic with fans of Lloyd Webber's musicals. Having seen the show I realise why: it simply does not have the magic or the 'wow' factor to linger for very long in your the memory.

- Helen Jones


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