Whistle Down the Wind

Book by Patricia Knop and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Based on Whistle Down the Wind by Mary Hayley Bell and the 1961 film of the same name. Music by Andrew Llyod Webber. Lyrics by Jim Steinman. The original London production opened on 1 July 1998 and was directed by Gale Edwards, with choreography is by Anthony Van Laast. The production closed on 6 January 2001, running for a total of 1 040-ish performances.

Synopsis and Musical Numbers

Whistle Down the Wind opens during a church service alongside a freeway near a small Louisiana town, three of days before Christmas, 1959. Among the congregation are Boone and his three children, Swallow, Brat and Poor Baby. His wife has recently died and the family takes comfort from their belief in God. In fact, religion plays a huge part in this small community. The people are relatively poor, but grateful to God for what they have. A large neon sign at the side of the road proclaims that “Jesus Lives”, as the minister leads the gathering in a song of worship (THE VAULTS OF HEAVEN). Dureing the sermon, the minister tells the community that they will be damned if they don’t recognize the second coming of Christ. These words leave a lasting impression in the minds of the three grieving children, especially Swallow who is on the verge of womanhood. After the service, the children play under the freeway (OVERTURE). Swallow prays a mother to guide her journey as a young woman, while her siblings dream of lipstick and liquorice (I NEVER GET WHAT I PRAY FOR). The children suddenly realise that the sun has set and that they will be late getting home. They know their father will be worried and start to rush to the trailer where they live. On the way they meet Earl, who is carrying a sack of kittens, which he is going to “send back to Jesus”. He throws the sack into a sewer and goes on his way. Swallow saves the kittens and the children run home (HOME BY NOW). They are slowed down by an encounter with Amos, a teenage rebel. Although he has a girlfriend, Candy, but he has taken recently a shine to Swallow. He offers her a ride on his “new” motorcycle, but Swallow runs off telling him that she has to get home as she’ll be in trouble for staying out so late.

Boone waits inside the trailer, preparing supper for himself and the kids. He is listening to the radio and a just before he switches it off, a warning is given about a killer who has escaped from prison and killed two guards in the process. The children arrive, having hidden the kittens in the barn. Boone tells the kids that money is tight and there may not be any presents this Christmas. Swallow tells him that all she wants is her mother back for Christmas. Boone tries to comfort her with the words his wife always used to put things right (WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND). Swallow goes out to the barn to see the kittens. There is a loud clap of thunder and Swallow sees a man hidden in the hay. She asks who is is. The badly injured man is shocked and exclaims replies “Jesus Chirst – don’t tell anyone I’m here” and passes out. The children argue whether or not the man is Jesus after noticing the wounds on his hands and feet, remembering the minister’s harsh words in the sermon earlier on. Brat reminds Swallow that Jesus can raise the dead. This could be their chance to get their Mother back and the children promise to shelter the man (THE VOW).

Meanwhile, in a nearby bar, Edward and the townspeople sing (COLD). Amos arrives to talk to Candy. She tells him that they must get out of this little town and Amos promises to take her to see the world. The sheriff arrives and tells Ed and Candy to leave as the state police are coming and “their kind” (African Americans) should not be in a place like this. He then tells the locals that he found a set of prison clothes a quarter of a mile away – the convict is on the loose and nearby. He warns them that the man, having already killed at least two people, would not hesitate to kill again and forms a gang of vigilantes to hunt down the Devil in their midst.

Back in the barn, the man has just woken up and Swallow tells him about herself and her younger brother and sister. The man asks if they know who he is and asks if they have told anyone that he is there. The children say they have only told their friends and the man tells them they must keep his presence a secret as the adults will kill him if they find him. Boone and Ed arrive, removing the pitchfork that the kids placed against the door. The man hides while the kids distract the adults by asking if Jesus would have tattoos when he returned. Swallow says that Jesus had better stay away from their town, as the people are so cruel they would crucify him before he had a chance to speak. She asks Ed why people around town are whispering secretively and Ed tells her that some corrupt thing has blown in from outside town. Eventually, they leave and the man, alone, thinks about his life (UNSETTLED SCORES). Later that night, Swallow comes to the barn. The man is amazed that she has come to see him in the middle of the night. He asks what she wants and Swallow tells him she wants her mother back (IF ONLY). The man says he is too tired to perform a miracle at the moment but promises that if she takes care of him he will bring her mother back.

Candy and Amos are out on the highway. Amos has been beaten by his father for refusing to work at the factory. Together, they dream of the things they want out of lie (TIRE TRACKS AND BROKEN HEARTS). Amos promises Candy that he will meet her at the next evening so they can leave town together. Ed arrives and tells Candy that there are laws that must not be broken, even if they are wrong: she should not be seen with a white boy in daylight. Meanwhile, the townsfolk grow increasingly anxious about the killer (SAFE HAVEN). The children, on their way to the barn, meet Amos and ask if he is going to the revival meeting. He asks Swallow about her secret but she doesn’t betray the man. The children continue on their way (LONG OVERDUE FOR A MIRACLE / WHEN CHRILDREN RULE THE WORLD). The children arrive at the barn and plead with the man to tell them a story. He finally agrees (ANNIE CHRISTMAS). The children give the man gifts (NO MATTER WHAT), while the townspeople decide how to handle the convict once they find him. They are determined to kill him.

When Swallow and the man are alone, he asks her to fetch a package that a friend has left for him in a train tunnel. Swallow promises that she will find a way to fetch the package and the man asks her not to look inside it. He notices that she is trembling and she sees that he is too (TRY NOT TO BE AFRIAD). Amos arrives at the barn to say goodbye to Swallow. The man suggests Swallow uses him to get to the tunnel and hides away as Amos enters the barn. He jealously overhears Amos tell Swallow that sometimes he lays awake at night dreaming of her (A KISS IS A TERRIBLE THING TO WASTE). Amos breaks his promise to meet Candy and takes Swallow to the train tunnel on his motorcycle. At the train tunnel, Swallow is almost killed by a train but is pulled clear by Amos. They do not notice Darryl hiding in the shadows. Amos asks Swallow to run away with him, but Swallow tells him that she is taking care of Jesus, who is hiding in her barn. The Sheriff arrives tells Amos he was risking Swallow’s life bringing her to the tunnel. They leave and when Swallow arrives home. Boone tells her she should be careful as there is a Devil on the loose. Swallow replies that Jesus will protect her and storms off.

Poor Baby’s kitten dies and he is upset that Jesus didn’t saved it. Swallow suggests that they go and ask him why he let it die (IF ONLY – REPRISE). They go to the barn and Swallow gives the man his package. He asks her what he can do for her and she tells him to tell Poor Baby why he let his kitten die. He tells them the story of Annie’s husband (CHARLIE CHRISTMAS), explaining that when your time up, you go. Poor Baby is not satisfied with this explanation and accuses him being a normal human being. He storms out of the barn. The man explains to Swallow that everyone – including her mother – has to die sometime. Swallow tells the man that she was almost killed by a train but she was not scared because she knew he was with her in her heart and that he loved her. After she leaves, the man contemplates the regrets that he has had in life as he opens the package that Swallow delivered. It is a gun. Meanwhile, Candy is still waiting for Amos to take her away from the town (OFFRAMP EXIT TO PARADISE). Amos arrives and asks her if she has seen Swallow. Angrily, Candy tells him she has been waiting hours for him and that he will never leave – he will grow old and die in that town. Amos leaves and Daryl arrives, telling Candy what he saw and heard in the tunnel. He explains that the escaped killer is hiding in Swallows barn and that she thinks he is Jesus. The townspeople pass (SAFE HAVEN – REPRISE) and Candy decides to seize her chance for revenge on Amos and Swallow.

At the revivalists tent, people are about to test their faith in Jesus by handling snakes (WRESTLE WITH THE DEVIL). During the meeting, Candy, Amos and Swallow arrive. Candy tells everyone that the killer is hiding in Swallow’s barn. Amos tries to tell her that he did not tell Candy, but Swallow rushes off to warn the man. The townspeople set off to kill the man (THE HUNT). The sheriff tells Candy to get on a bus out of town and not to come back. On her way to the barn, Swallow meets her father. He tells her not to go to the barn but Swallow says that he does not care about her – the man does and he loves her. She runs off. The townspeople head towards the barn to kill the Devil who is hiding there. The children block the entrance to protect him while Swallow rushes in to warn him. The man says he has to make a run for it but Swallow tells him that she will keep him safe. He tries to tell her that she has got him all wrong and that she should get out of the barn. Swallow replies that she knows who he is. He asks what if he had spent five years in prison and that the wounds were self-inflicted to help him escape. Swallow says she would not believe him. He asks whether Jesus would lie. Swallow tells him that even if he had done something too terrible to imagine, she would forgive him. As a last resort, the man tells her he cannot bring her mother back. Swallow only says that she knows and that she doesn’t want him to leave her because she needs him (THE NATURE OF THE BEAST).

The mob arrives outside the barn. Cornered and with no way out, the man pulls out the gun. At first he decides to use grabs Swallow as a hostage but he changes his mind and pushes her outside, closing the door behind her. He pours gasoline around the barn and lights a match. The barn bursts into flames with the man still inside it. After the fire has burnt out, Amos finally catches up with Swallow and tells her he did not tell anyone about the man in her barn. Boone tells her that the man in the barn was not Jesus and the sheriff tells them that the man has gone, there was not a trace of him in the barn. In the remains of the burnt out barn, Swallow remembers her mother’s words (WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND). Somehow, there is light in the darkness.

Mini Gallery

Whistle Down the Wind Whistle Down the Wind Whistle Down the Wind Whistle Down the Wind

Purchases from Amazon.com

From left to right above: 1. Whistle Down the Wind Concept Album CD. 2. Whistle Down the Wind Original London Cast Recording CD. 3. ALW Celebration concert DVD with numbers from Whistle Down the Wind. 4. ALW Masterpiece concert DVD with numbers from Whistle Down the Wind (Special Edition with Bonus CD). 5. Whistle Down the Wind Vocal Selections.


Jim Steinman
© WebRing Inc.
Jim Steinman
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