SOME years ago I watched Matt Lucas play the lovable speed freak Toad on the small screen, and rather foolishly thought that fun soaked performance would never be bettered. Silly me.
Then along came Rufus Hound, an actor head over heels in love with his work and a sense of comedy timing that is totally flawless. Watching this production at The Lowry, a new adaptation by Julian "Mr Downton Abbey" Fellowes, you get the feeling Hound was born to play this part.
As far as shows go, Wind In The Willows, which is as exhilarating as it is enchanting, is probably more suitable for children aged seven and over, rather than tiny tots. On press night the youngsters certainly fell under its spell. Forget the view that kids today are "too sophisticated" for this sort of quintessentially British, old-fashioned and timeless tale. Nonsense - they loved it. For large parts of the evening you could hear a pin drop.
The score ticks all the boxes, while not being good enough to render the musical an instant classic.
David Birrell is a likeable Badger and Neil McDermott is the perfect choice for the ringleader of those dastardly weasels, a sort of cross between a wartime London spiv and an old school gangster.
With some exciting and spectacular scenes and sets sprinkled with fairy tale magic, its fair to say The Lowry has a huge hit on its hands. Fabulous, family fun.
* Until November6. Thebox office is on 0843 208 6000. Star rating - ****