The first-ever North American tour of Whistle Down the Wind began at Houston's Theater Under the Stars Sept. 9. Directed and produced by Bill Kenwright, the musical was scheduled to play Cleveland, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Dallas, but will now shutter following the Feb. 12-17 engagement at Norfolk's Chrysler Hall.
Based on the novel by Mary Hayley Bell and the subsequent 1961 movie set in the U.K., the musical — with book by Patricia Knop, Gale Edwards and Andrew Lloyd Webber and featuring lyrics by Jim Steinman of "Meatloaf" songwriting fame — is now set in Louisiana in 1959.
Whistle Down the Wind made its first American bow (and world premiere) in 1996 at the National Theatre, under the direction of Hal Prince. An intended Broadway transfer was scrapped and the musical was reworked for a successful West End production in 1998, helmed by Gale Edwards. A subsequent U.K. tour in 2001, with Bill Kenwright at the reins, saw further development and restructuring of the musical's book, in order to focus on the musical's human elements. It played a brief West End engagement in 2006.
Whistle Down the Wind, according to press notes, concerns "Swallow, a sixteen year-old girl from Louisiana, who finds a mysterious stranger hiding in her barn. When she asks his identity—the first words he utters are 'Jesus Christ;' and it's as if all her prayers have been answered. While the townspeople are determined to find the escaped felon, she and her friends vow to protect him from the outside world."
The production currently stars Whitney Bashor in the lead role of Swallow, with Eric Kunze as The Man, Dann Fink as Boone, Nadine Jacobson as Brat, Carole Denise Jones as Candy, Gerry McIntyre as Ed, Adam Shonkwiler as Earl, Matt Skrincosky as Amos, Greg Stone as The Snake Preacher, Austin J. Zambito-Valente as Poor Baby and Kurt Zischke as The Vault Preacher. The ensemble comprises Ryan Appleby, Renee Claire Bergeron, Al Bundonis, Raisa Ellingson, Elizabeth Earley, Alexis Hightower, Stephen Horst, James Jackson, Jr., Justine Magnusson, Jason Ostrowski, Thomas Rainey and Mickey Toogood.
The creative team also includes costume and set design by Paul Farnsworth, choreography by Henry Metcalfe, musical direction by David Steadman, lighting design by Nick Richings and sound design by Ben Harrison.
Lloyd Webber's score incorporates blues, gospel, country, rock 'n' roll and traditional Broadway styles into the songs "No Matter What," "A Kiss is a Terrible Thing to Waste," "The Vaults of Heaven," "The Nature of the Beast," "Tire Tracks and Broken Hearts" and the title tune.
Whistle Down the Wind currently plays Boston's Citi Performing Arts Center through Feb. 3. Remaining stops include Philadelphia's Merriam Theater (Feb. 5-10), and finally, Chrysler Hall in Norfolk, VA (Feb. 12-17).
Tickets and tour information are available by visiting www.thewhistletour.com.