IT’S one of the most eagerly-awaited shows of the year. Tonight the curtain rises on a new musical version of Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows.

For comedian and presenter Rufus Hound who plays Toad in the show at the Lowry at Salford Quays getting the show ready for its world premiere has been a great experience and after an opening week in Plymouth the signs are he’s in something special.

“It’s all going rather well,” said Rufus. “When you start off creating a new thing all you can do is cross your fingers and hope for best.

“You get to a point where you are actually too close to a production to know whether it’s going to be the best or worst thing you’ve ever done. Your critical faculty is reduced to zero.

“But we’ve had audiences on their feet every night and really loving it. The whole thing has been a really exciting process.”

Written by Oscar winner Julian Fellowes, he of Downton Abbey fame, the story of Ratty, Mole and the madcap Toad has been given a new lease of life.

Rufus acknowledges that there is an added pressure because the story is so well loved.

“It is one of those books that we’ve had read to us by our parents or grandparents or shared as family,” he said.

“It has a special part in a lot of people’s lives. It’s not just that they love the story but they also love the part of their life when they were told that story. There’s an association with it being part of a special time. It’s a real warm embrace of a book.

“But we have a splendidly talented cast and the whole thing looks phenomenal - it’s a feast for the eyes. The band is huge and sounds incredible. It’s just a lovely thing to be part of a big production surrounded by people you admire and respect.”

For his role as Toad, Rufus was given a piece of advice by Julian Fellowes.

“He’s very much an old school writer so he’s not at rehearsals every day with copious notes,” said Rufus. “But the one thing he did say was that the audience have to like Toad and if they don’t we’re sunk.

“So, no pressure there then! But he was right. Toad in some productions can be annoying but the audience has to like him otherwise the whole of the second half doesn't work. He has all his friends trying to save his home so the audience needs to be on his side.

"You have to want him to get his house back otherwise the whole dramatic thrust of second half of the show goes out of the window."

Rufus acknowledges the enduring appeal of the Wind in the Willows.

"A psychologist did some analysis which found that stories which succeed are largely guild stories.

"It's basically a band of people of different types who come together and even though they are not natural bedfellows they win through in the end.

"If you look at Guardians of the Galaxy or Star Wars or Lord of the Rings it's true and Wind in the Willows also has that but without the need for so many car chases and explosions.

"I think we can all identify with one of the characters. When you are a kid you absolutely love toad because he's so anarchic.

"As you get older you begin to identify more with Mole or Ratty and as you get older still you develop a Badger-like view of the world."

Wind in the Willows, the Lowry, Salford Quays, until Sunday, November 6. Details from 0843 208 6000.