New Webber Musical Looks Like a Sure Hit

by William Hines
originally appeared in the Scranton, PA Sunday Times on December 29,1996

Recently, I was on the road in Washington, D.C., to attend the world premeire of Whistle Down the Wind, the new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. It was an exclusive pre-Broadway offering at the National Theatre for a limited engagement through Feb. 9, 1997. The show has many positive elements -- a tuneful score, strong performances and striking scenic designs.

Many local theater patrons have informed me that they will travel to Washington to see the show. Some readers received theater tickets for Whistle Down the Wind on Broadway as a special holiday gift. What a show! What a cast!

The Broadway opening is set for April 17, 1997, at the Martin Beck Theatre. Twenty-time Tony Award-winning director Harold Prince directs this production. The Prince signature is evident in every scene of this monumental musical.

Whistle Down the Wind features a cast of 35 actors, including 14 young performers who range between the ages of 8 and 17.

Set in a backwater town in 1950's Louisiana just before Christmas, the musical tells the story of three children who find a mysterious stranger hiding in their barn. The trio conceals their discovery from the town's grownups, who at the same time are protecting the children with a secret of their own.

As the adults search for an escaped convict, a young girl finds faith strong enough to redeem not only the stranger, but her family, and the whole town as well. Whistle Down the Wind is based on the novel by Mary Hayley Bell and the film is produced by Richard Attenborough.

The impressive Webber score has definitive lyrics by Jim Steinman who has been described by the Los Angeles Times as "the Richard Wagner of rock." He is best known for his first record, the legendary Bat Out of Hell with Meat Loaf, that sold over 30 million discs. This is his Broadway debut, and the first time Steinman has written only lyrics.

The new book is penned by Patricia Kemp [sic] and Andrew Lloyd Webber. The scenic design is by Andrew Jackness, costumes by Florence Klotz, lighting by Howard Binkley and sound design by Martin Levan.

Whistle Down the Wind sings and slides along with some boot-stomping choreography by Joey McKneely. The country rock score even has a slick "Electric Slide" performed in the production number "Cold."

Making an impressive professional debut is a 17-year-old Philadelphia native, Irene Malloy [sic], in the role of Swallow. She is the young girl who discovers a mysterious stranger in her father's barn.

Malloy is a gifted performer, and she soars to new heights in one of the show's most gorgeous songs, "If Only." Malloy will make headlines when the show arrives in New York, and I predict she will take Broadway by storm.

Davis Gaines, who played the title role in The Phantom of the Opera for 1,937 performances and whop has the distiction of having played the role more times than any other actor to date, plays the role of "The Man," the scary stranger.

Gaines is a wonderful singer and really delivers in his big number, "Nature of the Beast." The Phantom is now unmasked and Gaines works hard -- especially in Act II.

As the composer of such Broadway blockbusters as Jesus Christ Superstar, The Phantom of the Opera, Sunset Boulevard, Cats, Aspects of Love, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Starlight Express, Evita, By Jeeves, and Song and Dance, Andrew Lloyd webber remains one of the greatest theater compsers working in the industry.

Whistle Down the Wind will be another Broadway hit. More to come later from opening night on Broadway.

This musical is still being changed and updated in anticipation of its New York arrival. The world premiere was a wonderful and fulfilling evening of musical theater.

Back to the Whistle Down the Wind Shrine

Back to Jedi Evita's Castle on a Cloud