Whistle Down The Wind

Previewed 15 March 2006, Opened 27 March 2006, Closed 12 August 2006 at the Palace Theatre London

The return, for a strictly short season, of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman's musical Whistle Down the Wind to London in a brand new production directed by Bill Kenwright.

In America's Deep South a 15 year old girl discovers a mysterious man hiding out in a barn. When she asks his identity the first words he utters are 'Jesus Christ'; it's as if all her prayers have been answered. The girl and the town's other children vow to protect the stranger from the world that waits outside; meanwhile the townspeople are determined to catch a fugitive. Whistle Down The Wind's powerful all new staging combines epic storytelling with intimate emotion as the innocence of children collides with the cynicism of the adult world.

Based on the much loved film, Whistle Down the Wind is an extraordinary and uplifting tale about the transforming power of love and was originally seen in London's West End at The Aldwych Theatre in 1998 when it played for 2½ years. This stage musical version featured the No.1 hit: No Matter What; plus Whistle Down The Wind; The Vaults of Heaven; Try Not To Be Afraid; Cold; and many more. Please note: age suitability - eight plus.

"Under Bill Kenwright's impressively simple, uncluttered direction, this revival succeeds in being a quietly exciting and moving story of mistaken identity and the power of purity over wickedness. Lloyd Webber relocated the original story (made famous by the 1961 film starring Alan Bates and Hayley Mills) from its chilly setting in northern England to the God-fearing community of farming folk in Fifties Louisiana. It gave him, the grand master of pastiche, a golden opportunity to experiment with sounds from gospel, hymns, jazz, blues and the dawn of rock'n'roll... Kenwright's production gets the best out of less-than-vintage Lloyd Webber." The Mail on Sunday

"If you were once, like most people, an eager, dreamy child, or a restless adolescent who loved secrets and liked to fantasise, don't miss this Andrew Lloyd Webber musical... Bill Kenwright's production of Whistle Down The Wind blends the absurd, the childlike, the lyrical and the menacing... Paul Farnsworth's sets are brilliantly evocative, and there are moments when the blend of lyricism and violence reminds you of West Side Story... Sad, joyful and finally uplifting: an irresistible show." The Sunday Times

"There are those whose heart's cockles are warmed by the sound of many children singing at the same time and there are those who want to leave the room - or in my case the Palace Theatre where Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical abomination Whistle Down the Wind has been revived. This is a nauseating and creepy adaptation of Mary Hayley Bell's cockle-warming, sinister 1958 novel. Dogged professionalism aside, only the shiny, happy face of my companion, my own child, kept me in my seat... The performances are all good and conscientious, and the songs, even the ones sung by many children at the same time, are forgivable. Turning this classic story of a childhood fantasy into one of teenage angst, however, is not." The Sunday Telegraph

Whistle Down The Wind in London at the Palace Theatre previewed from 15 March 2006, opened on 27 March 2006 and closed on 12 August 2006.


Whistle Down The Wind at the Aldwych Theatre London 1998

Previewed 22 June 1998, Opened 1 July 1998, Closed 6 January 2001 at the Aldwych Theatre London

Andrew Lloyd's new musical Whistle Down The Wind in London featuring lyrics by Jim Steinman. Based on the original novel by Mary Hayley Bell and the film produced by Richard Attenborough and directed by Bryan Forbes from a screenplay by Keith Water house and Willis Hall. Adapted for the stage by Patricia Knop and Gale Edwards and directed by Gale Edwards with designs by Peter J. Davison. The original cast featured Lottie Mayor as 'Swallow' and Marcus Lovett as 'the Man'.

This is the West End premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical which was seen in February 1997 at the National Theatre in Washington DC where it played for 9 weeks. The musical has now been revised for it's West End opening and includes some new songs.

"The original was a memorable low-key, low-budget picture in black and white set in the North of England and starring Alan Bates and Hayley Mills. The West End version is a forgettable, brash, big budget musical in all the colours of the rainbow, set in a small town in Louisiana starring two unknowns... Simplicity has been sacrificed for the spectacular, with everything thrown in from an express train and a roaring motorcycle, to live snakes and real flames in the fiery finale. The best moments come from the wide-eyed youngsters with numbers such as Long Overdue For A Miracle and When Children Rule The World. The rest is too melodramatic for words." The Daily Mirror

"Whistle Down the Wind arrives at the Aldwych much transformed from the Mary Hayley Bell novel and Bryan Forbes movie on which it is based. Lloyd Webber rightly argues that Bible-belt Louisiana is a more convincing setting than rural Britain for a Christmas-time story that turns on the touching faith of children in a second coming that will heal their damaged lives... While Swallow loves Jesus, the man (or beast) in him is inevitably erotically attracted to her. But nobody connected with the show, not Lloyd Webber, nor his lyricist Jim Steinman, nor Edwards, dares push this conflict far enough to make it dramatically interesting. It may be that this is just too dangerous for a commercial musical, but it stops the show from being grown-up...Lloyd Webber has ducked a genuine confrontation between two kinds of love, two kinds of desire, and, as with his music, has given us something that has the appearance, but not the substance, of the real thing. Like the fugitive, he disappears without trace. Swallow and the children take some comfort from this, treating the absence of their Jesus as confirmation that one day he will reappear. Fans of Andrew Lloyd Webber may find it a convenient parable: that so long as we keep faith, one day the genius will become manifest. It remains an unanswered prayer." The Sunday Times

"The story is well known from the Bryan Forbes film: a bunch of kids in Louisiana in 1959 take an escaped convict to be Jesus Christ. Lloyd Webber - working here with Jim Steinman, and Patricia Knop and Gale Edwards - alternates between (a) kids and (b) adults, (a) misplaced hope and (b) jaded cynicism, (a) positive and (b) negative energy... Lloyd Webber is a craftsman. Throughout the show you can feel him trying every technique he knows to make a number theatrically effective. The result, though not particularly effective, is less unpleasantly manipulative than in other shows of his... The central idea of his conception here becomes apparent in Act Two: to show how (a) and (b) are related, how the bright optimism of the kids can overlap musically and rhythmically with the punitive aggression of the adults. Both (a) and (b) are, in fact, the opposite sides of the same coin: which is moral energy... Gale Edwards directs. Thanks to her, there is one somewhat interesting scene near the end, in which the heroine Swallow and the convict she insists is Jesus face each other at close quarters. The mixture of confused sexual attraction and idealistic hesitation on both sides is well handled and sustained by Lottie Mayor and Marcus Lovett" The Financial Times

"Despite being reworked for London, Whistle Down the Wind proves a more obstinate beast - a dramatic dinosaur oddly out of time and out of tune with the theatre of today. Lloyd Webber has transposed Mary Hayley Bell's novel from its chilly original setting in the north of England to a God-fearing community of simple farming folk in Fifties Louisiana... Yet despite the change of location, we're still in Lloyd Webber-land. Here, amazingly, the Baptist minister and his wife boogie alongside the slappers and drunks in the local bar, and otherwise bigoted, red-necked Southerners overlook the racial apartheid laws. This is even less plausible than the main story, which depends on a huge leap of faith and a major case of mistaken identity: Jesus Christ Superstar meets Martin Guerre... The real problem, though, is a plot so predictable that the show's creators frantically attempt to find dramatic interest elsewhere. The songs should do it, but the score is a lost opportunity, with lots of very Seventies-sounding rock, too little blues or gospel and no showstopper on the scale of 'Memory'... Dramatically, the second half is stronger as the hunters close in on the convict. But the only genuine moment of drama, in a generally underwhelming show, is the duet between Swallow and 'Jesus', when Swallow discovers that her devotion has an erotic edge, and 'Jesus' wrestles with his inner demons again and releases her with a chaste kiss. In Lloyd Webber-land, good always triumphs over evil. Where the show succeeds is in its special effects. Trouble is, you can't whistle the scenery." The Mail on Sunday

Whistle Down The Wind in London at the Aldwych Theatre previewed from 22 June 1998, opened on 1 July 1998 and closed on 6 January 2001.