Frog and Toad are your friends. They’ve been your friends for more than 40 years, since the two leap-frogged from Arnold Lobel’s head into the now classic children’s books.
A Year with Frog and Toad, playing at Zach Theatre through November 29, 2014, cleverly delivers the favorite stories of Lobel onto the stage with catchy tunes you will hum long after you leave the theatre. Director Nat Miller has crafted the latest version of the Tony-nominated show, which will take you back to the imaginary world of childhood. Executive producers are James Armstrong and Larry Connelly.
The actors on Zach Theatre’s Kleberg Stage are comfortable with the audience. They rely on acting instead of elaborate costuming, and the result is magical. The audience immediately recognizes and accepts the play’s characters, as if they stepped right out of Lobel’s books.
Whether you read the books yourself, had the books read to you or have read them to your children or grandchildren, you know Frog and Toad as fast friends who value friendship seriously the way small children do, and the way all still do, though some are cloaked by years of maturity.
Nicholas Kier as Frog
Frog is the sensible creature among the pair of friends. Played by Nicholas Kier, he is the one who knows just a bit better, and is just a bit more thoughtful. His manipulation of facts and calendars to wake up Toad from his winter sleep establishes his role as the more clever of the friends, to the glee of the audience.
Chase Brewer as Toad
Brewer gives an open and winning performance as Toad. Toad lives in the Now. He is the more needy and fretful. He is the less experienced, the innocent at the heart of everyone.
Kelly Petlin as Turtle
Kellly Petlin is powerful. She cracks up the audience. She controls the situation.
Josh Wechsler as Snail
The snail weaves in and out of the scenes to deliver a letter from Frog to Toad. Weschler is able to combine the concept of “slow as a snail” with “urgent efficiency” with comic expertise. His journey to deliver the letter ties the entire show together.
Megan Richards Wright as Mouse
Wright as Mouse is wry and clever. When she teams up with Petlin’s Turtle “to get a load of Toad” when he is shy about how he looks in his bathing suit, the audience laughs and cringes empathetically for Toad. Toad feels he looks funny in a bathing suit and, well, he does. He tries to hide in the water, but finally must emerge.
The Bird Chorus
Wechsler, Wright and Petlin also team together as a crafty ensemble of birds who flit to and fro between scenes to announce the changing of seasons or join the scene of eating chocolate chip cookies.
All in all, the physical humor of the five actors in A Year with Frog and Toad make children laugh out loud and often. With choreography directed by Jennifer Young Mahlstead and music directed by Allen Robertson, the five sing and dance in emotions ranging from wistful thoughtfulness to the frenetic play of kids going wild.
Readers of the Frog and Toad stories will recognize tales such as the bathing suit, the letter, the cookies and the kite. The play takes place over the four seasons, starting with Frog and Toad’s attempt to wake up from hibernation. The kids love the clever staging of Frog and Toad as they fly a kite out of the audience, after sneers from the bird chorus during their initial unsuccessful attempts. The wild ride of Frog and Toad’s sledding down a snow embankment in winter, with simple but ingenious production, is a crowd pleaser as well.
Did you read the Frog and Toad books as a child?