Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Year with Frog and Toad and Children's Theatre Company

Matthew Rubbelke, Traci Allen Shannon and Autumn Ness
as birds in the ensemble (Photo by Dan Norman)
"A Year with Frog and Toad" makes its triumphed return to the Twin Cities this Spring and it's absolutely wonderful. It has been a very very long time since I've seen a production at Children's Theatre Company (CTC) and this show will certainly have me coming back for more productions. It was a wonderful afternoon of theatre.

This musical was commissioned and created by Children's Theatre Company and originally debuted at CTC in 2002. Transferring to the New Victory Theatre (Off-Broadway), and then the Cort Theatre (Broadway), it was nominated for three Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score. That same year, Children's Theatre Company won the Regional Theatre Tony Award, marking the first time a theatre for young audiences won the honor.

It's the story of, you guessed it, Frog and Toad and based off of the children's books written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel. Waking from hibernation in the spring, the perky Frog and the worrywart Toad plant gardens, swim, rake leaves, go sledding, and learn life lessons through four, fun-filled seasons. The amphibian odd couple celebrates and rejoices in their differences that make them the best-est of friends while joined by a colorful cast of birds, mice, turtles, and that slo-o-ow snail with the mail (summary from CTC website).

Matthew Rubbelke as Snail (Photo by Dan Norman)
No matter how great a show is, sometimes I may have one little nit-picky thing that I disagree with but not this show. It was all too perfect. The actors truly are at the top of their craft with this production. Each actor embodies these larger than life animals. What's so enjoyable about their performances are how they perform for the kids but each and every adult was completely engulfed in the production as well. Bradley Greenwald as tidy Frog, Reed Sigmund as the impatient Toad, and an ensemble of Traci Allen Shannon, Matt Rubbelke and Autumn Ness who play a multitude of animals including squirrels, a mouse, lizard, turtle and a trio of fashionista birds. Matt Rubbelke also has a standout performance as the snail (who delivers mail...get it...snail mail), who's performance was quite possibly my favorite. 

Bradley Greenwald as Frog and
Reed Sigmund as Toad (Photo by Dan Norman)
The set is quite possibly one of the most magical things I've seen on a stage in quite some time. At times it is simple and only has two beds on it, but other times the set has large cattails fly in that really make you feel like you're apart of the performance and are the same size as these animals. The set was even designed by Arnold Lobel's daughter, Adrianna. 

On a more personal note, what I loved even more about the show was seeing and hearing all the giggles from the countless amounts of children in the audience. I only wish I would have found theatre at that age. That was more than enough for me, to see how happy these kids were. And speaking as a former actor, that's why we do it. To get that lovely audience feedback.

"A Year with Frog and Toad" is charming, entertaining and just downright delightful. It is a show for families and theatre lovers of all ages. You'll be humming the tunes all night. It runs through June 18, so there is absolutely no excuse not to be able to catch it before it hops off stage! Ticket information can be found here.

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