‘Wind in the Willows Christmas’ Returns to Two River Theater

November 29, 2013
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RED BANK – The Two River Theater production of “A Wind in the Willows Christmas,” a holiday musical written by composer Mike Reid, lyricist Sarah Schlesinger, and bookwriter Mindi Dickstein will be on stage Dec. 7 – 29 at the 21 Bridge Ave. theater.

The production is choreographed by Warren Adams (winner of the 2013 Fred Astaire Award for “Motown: The Musical”) and directed by Daniella Topol (“Charles Ives Take Me Home,”) with music direction and vocal arrangements by John O’Neill.

Based on the children’s classic by Kenneth Grahame, the musical takes audiences to a wintry wonderland where Mole, the Water Rat, Mr. Toad and all the creatures of the Willows discover the true meaning of friendship. Per­formances will begin in the Rechnitz Theater on Saturday, Dec. 7 and continue through Sunday, Dec. 29. The lead production sponsor is Investors Bank and the cosponsor is the Unterberg Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center Barnabas Health.

Commissioned and premiered by Two River last season, “A Wind in the Willows Christmas” returns to the theater in a new production, visually reimagined by a new cast and creative team. The theater will continue to offer its popular creation station for children to display their artwork in Two River’s lobby throughout the run of the show and a Q-and-A with the cast following every performance.

Tickets are available from 732-345-1400 or www.tworiver theater.org. “A Wind in the Willows Christ­mas” is recommended for those age 5 and older. Tickets are $25 for patrons under age 18 and range from $20 to $55 for adults; $20 tickets may be partial view. Discounts are available for groups, seniors, and U.S. military personnel, their families, and veterans.

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The company includes Becca Ayers (“The Addams Family”) as Mrs. Otter; Amanda Butterbaugh (Two River’s “Honk!”) as a Weasel; Sean Patrick Doyle (“La Cage aux Folles,” “The Sitter”) as a Weasel; Cole Escola (Two River’s “Present Laughter,” the Second Annual Backstage 30) as Portly Otter; William Thomas Evans (“The Fantas­ticks”) as Dr. Badger; Mike Faist (“Newsies”) as Mole; Justin Keyes (“In Transit”) as the Water Rat; and Caesar Samayoa (“Love’s Labour’s Lost,” “Sister Act”) as Mr. Toad.

“Last season, Two River premiered ‘A Wind in the Willows Christmas’ as a way to bring a holiday celebration of this wonderful story to our audiences,” said John Dias, Two River Theater artistic director. “This year, we are continuing to develop the piece as a great new musical for both children and adults. And this new production, with a team led by director Daniella Topol and choreographer Warren Adams, will have even more Christmas spirit.”

Composer Reid and lyricist Schlesinger are the composer and lyricist of musicals including “In This House” (which premiered at Two River in 2012) and “The Ballad of Little Jo.” Reid is a Grammy Award-winning songwriter with more than 30 Top 10 pop and country hits recorded by many artists including Bonnie Raitt (“I Can’t Make You Love Me”) and Kenny Chesney (“Always Gonna Be You.”) He received his Grammy for “Stranger in My House,” recorded by Ronnie Milsap. Schlesinger is the chair of the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Bookwriter Mindi Dickstein wrote the lyrics for the Broadway musical “Little Women.” She has written several musicals for Theatreworks USA including “Black Beauty” and “Lyle, Lyle Crocodile.” Recent work includes the book for “Toy Story – The Musical,” with songs by Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda (“Groove­Lily”), for Disney Creative Entertainment.

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The creative team for “A Wind in the Willows Christ­mas” includes scenic designer Clint Ramos, costume designer Olivera Gajic, lighting designer Paul Whitaker, and sound designer Zachary Williamson. The orchestrations are by Danny Larsen, the casting is by Cindy Tolan and Adam Caldwell, and the stage manager is M. William Shiner.

Two River Theater’s 20th Anniversary Season is supported in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a division within the Department of State and a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, The Chicago Commun­ity Trust, The Greater Kansas City Com­munity Foundation, Jewish Com­munal Fund, New Tama­rind Fund, The Columbus Foun­dation, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, The Shu­bert Foundation, The Stone Foundation of New Jersey, Monmouth University, The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, Durso Wealth Management Group at Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Investors Bank, Monmouth Medical Center, The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, Springpoint Senior Living Foundation at the Atrium at Navesink Harbor, and many other generous foundations, corporations and individuals.

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