Vibrant and heartfelt, this cast recording of the music from the hip hop take based on The Wind in the Willows highlights a great musical to get children into musical theatre.

There is always a huge amount of pressure when taking a beloved story and transforming it into a musical – particularly if you want to make it sound relevant for a modern audience. But by the sounds of this newly released EP, Metta Theatre’s hip hop musical In the Willows is a great show for any kids who love musical theatre to listen to or watch.

In this reworking of The Wind in the Willows, the story follows Mole’s first day in ‘The Willows’. As she learns more about the ways of the riverbank from Mr Badger and streetwise Rattie, rich kid Toad and cheeky Otter, her dark secret is getting closer to being revealed by Chief Weasel.

Written and directed by P Burton-Morgan, with music and additional lyrics from composer Pippa Cleary (The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Ambassadors Theatre; Prodigy, St James Theatre) and hip-hop Composer Keiran Merrick, the music bursts with life and personality.

‘Easy Life’ gets this album off to a bold and imaginative start, filled with pleasing rhythms and rhymes that immediately capture the attention of the listener. It has a great energy about it, that I can only imagine being matched by the choreography when seen on stage. There are times when it feels as though the lyrics repeat themselves too much that can make them lose impact on the listener, but musically I love the combination of hip hop with some jazz undertones.

Elsewhere, the way in which the songs have been written really effectively also help to unfold the story and build up relationships between characters as heard on ‘Between You and Me’. Beautifully performed by Sharon Rose and Hiba Elchikhe it is certainly one of the more sensitive and thoughtful songs on the album.

Throughout it all, in terms of style it is not to mix it up and making some interesting contrasting sounds as heard on ‘Animal’ which while having a great energy about it, there is an element of darkness as well that intrigues. This in comparison with ‘Head Above Water’ which really soars before taking an unexpected turn is a real surprise.

The album comes to a quiet and understated performance of ‘Oh Child’, which highlights the gorgeous richness of Clive Rowe’s confident vocals and the skills of the songwriters.

This EP is a real bundle of energy and personality, blending the combined skills of P Burton-Morgan, Keiran Merrick and Pippa Cleary really well. An imaginative and fun listen – let’s hope we will be able to see the production back on stage again soon.

By Emma Clarendon

In the Willows is available to listen to through Spotify, iTunes and other digital media.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐