Frog and Toad have become two of the most beloved characters in the children’s book world, and that sentiment translates easily to the stage in Adventure Theatre’s latest musical production “A Year with Frog and Toad.”
Based on the books by Arnold Lobel, the show follows the amphibian friends through a year together, starting with their springtime rouse from hibernation until it’s time to go back to sleep the next winter. The seasons serve as a chronological backdrop for their adventures, as they plant flowers, swim, rake leaves, go sledding. And while the setting transforms to convey a change in weather and time of year, one thing remains endearingly steadfast throughout: the devoted and touching friendship of Frog and Toad.
Along with a gang of other animal characters (played by just three other actors), Frog and Toad put on a performance that is abundantly entertaining for all ages. From the songs to the set to the story, both the overall production and well-thought details keep the audience engaged for the entire hour of show. The ragtime-style music, played by a three-piece band “hidden” in the marshland set, had my five-year-old bopping in his seat (I had to exercise some restraint myself) as the wonderfully talented cast sang and danced with spirited energy.
The set is imaginatively designed to look like a swamp, with tall wooden pieces painted muted greens and browns to create grass, dandelions, and cattail growing along a pond scattered with lily pads. New seasons are indicated with bubbles for a summer swim, leaves falling in autumn, and snow spraying from above for a wild winter sled ride. Some of my favorite touches were the clever props used to remind us that the characters are little creatures living in a big world–a watch face is Toad’s clock, forks are used to rake leaves, their sled is made of a matchbox, a frying pan is fashioned from a bottle cap. Spotting these small details is almost a game in itself that only adds to the fun.
Amid all the fantastic musical numbers and charming scenery, at the core of the show is the tale of Frog and Toad’s friendship. Many life “lessons” about thoughtfulness, comaraderie, acceptance, and loyalty are played out through their interactions. At the beginning of the show Toad complains that he never receives any mail, so Frog writes him a letter that he sends by “snail mail.” In a scene when Frog wants to be alone, Toad goes to find him thinking something is wrong, until Frog explains that sometimes he just wanted to be by himself. They rake each other’s leaves as a nice surprise for their friend (only to have them messed up by a mouse). And when the letter finally arrives at the end of the play, Toad realizes just how lucky he is to have a friend like Frog.
“A Year with Frog and Toad” is playing at Adventure Theatre through June 5. Performances are at 10:30am Wednesday through Friday, and at 11am and 1pm Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are are $15 and can be purchased online in advance, which I recommend, as I saw some disappointed theatre-goers at the box office when they learned the show was sold out. Recommended for ages 4 and up.