A YEAR WITH FROG AND TOADMusic by Robert Reale, Book and Lyrics by William Reale
Based on the books by Arnold Lobel
Dallas Children's Theater
Directed by Cheryl Denson
Musical Direction by James McQuillen
Choreography – Jeremy Dumont
Scene Design – Jeffrey Franks
Lighting Design – Linda Blase
Costume Design – Amanda Capshaw
Properties Design – H. Bart McGeehon
Sound Design – Marco Salinas
Frog – Christopher Curtis
Toad – Brian Hathaway
Bird, Turtle, Squirrel, Mother Frog, Mole – Beth Albright
Bird, Snail, Lizard, Father Frog, Mole – Darius-Anthony Robinson
Bird, Mouse, Squirrel, Baby Frog, Mole – Kylie Arnold
Photos By Linda Blase
Reviewed Performance: 1/29/2016
Reviewed by Angela Newby, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Playwright William Reale has adapted the books into this wonderful play with music from Robert Reale. The cast, other than Frog and Toad, assume multiple new characters and change locations with the help of scenery, props and numerous costume pieces.
A Year with Frog and Toad is a three-time Tony-nominated Broadway hit with a jazzy score and a delightful cast. This musical follows two unlikely best friends and their quirky egos from hibernation, to the nice spring and playful summer, to leaves falling and snow gathering, then back to hibernation. Frog and Toad weather the seasons and celebrate their differences which is what makes their friendship stand the test of time.
Opening night began with the buzz of friends and families playfully trying to win the trivia contest about these two amphibian creatures being presented on side projections. Little boys and girls were lively in the audience with their own frog and toad eyes eagerly awaiting the beginning of the show.
Both Cheryl Denson, Director, and James McQuillen, Musical Director, brought a spectacular show together that had the audience on the edge of their seats waiting for what would come next, and they did not disappoint.
Choreographer Jeremy Dumont’s work was flawless in execution, but more importantly brilliantly designed. The movements were animal inspired and brought the characters to life. The company was perfect in “Getta Load of Toad” with dance moves that had the audience participating with from their seats. “The Letter” and all subsequent reprises was by far my favorite choreography as Robinson provided high energy for the cute mail carrying snail.
Jeffrey Franks’ set design perfectly captured the world of nature that Frog and Toad live in. Each piece of the moving set was well utilized to bring every element of nature to life. The background with the shoots of grass, leaves, and mushrooms all formed a cozy atmosphere for the characters. Frog and Toad’s houses were amazing and the attention to detail inside with working fireplaces made them homes. The pond was classically built with multiple levels of rocks that each of the animals used as either a jumping off point or a place to bask in the sun. The added dimension of video allowed for the set to go both underwater and the top of the snowy peaks. The interactive elements of the videos were spectacular.
Properties Design by H. Bart McGeehon only enhanced the sets by Jeffrey Franks. Each and every prop element was carefully picked to enhance the characters. Frog’s house was clean and crisp, while Toad’s bedroom was picture perfect to his less than tidy ways. The baking scene allowed for the props to be handled by multiple characters and still remain interactive.
Linda Blasé’s lighting design was superb. Spotlights were used to easily define the action on stage, which highlighted well with colored lights that distinguished day from night with bright yellow-orange tones that were softened with blues as the day fell to night. It was within the moments of the storm though that lighting shined. The flashes of lightning were realistic and the dark and low lights only enhanced the suspenseful story that Frog shared with Toad.
Sound Design by Marco Salinas was spot-on. Each action by the cast that needed a sound, such as splashing into the water or walking through the leaves only heightened the feel of wildlife all around Frog and Toad. The choice in musical selection set the mood and scene perfectly. Intense scores helped the audience feel the fear within the characters, while soothing movements only boosted the emotions on stage.
Amanda Capshaw’s costume design was spectacular. While each member of the ensemble held many different roles, it was the costumes that enriched their animalistic nature. The family of frogs were dressed in shades of green, while the birds were decked out in dresses with feathered fabric that all coordinated perfectly with their flower and feather hats. The squirrels were nice and cozy in their warm winter sweaters, but it was their tulle tails that had me intrigued and wanting a tail of my own. The black snow suits fit the moles perfectly as did the wicker hat shell of the turtle. Snail was dressed as a boy scout with his back pack and sleeping bag on his back that was perfect for his shell body. Frog was decked out in a dapper dress pants and vest, while Toad used suspenders and a bowtie to show his fashion sense. Toad though was easily distinguished with his orange “warts” that accompanied each and every outfit.
Christopher Curtis as Frog was high energy and compassionate which was perfect for the role. Curtis’s wide smiles and gentle nods of his head only furthered Frog’s happy demeanor. Curtis nailed the frog movements with squats and hops that would make any frog envious. Yet Frog also has a serious side which is shown through Curtis’s strong stature, stoic face, and rich vocals in “Alone.” Curtis blended in perfect harmony with Hathaway in “He’ll Never Know” and the chemistry between the two of them spoke of the true friendship between Frog and Toad.
Toad, played by Brian Hathaway, was spot-on in his role. Toad’s carefree personality was expressed through Hathaway’s expressive eyes, wide-open gasps, and perplexed looks. Hathaway was light on his feet during the choreography of “He’ll Never Know,” and shined vocally in “Toad to the Rescue.” Toad came to life through his ability to engage with each and every cast member on stage and joy radiated throughout his whole performance.
The ensemble was made up of Beth Albright, Darius-Anthony Robinson, and Kylie Arnold. They graced the stage with a plethora of characters that each had a strong stage present due to the talent of these three individuals. Beth Albright as Turtle was flawless in “Underwater Ballet” and brought an edgy personality with her confident swagger and facial expressions. Snail, played by Darius-Anthony Robinson was a favorite by the audience with his jovial smile, swift foot work, and strong vocals in “The Letter.” Kylie Arnold was picture perfect in the role of Mouse. Her squeaky voice and energetic fast-paced movements made her easily seen as a mouse. This ensemble though shined vocally in their role as the birds with “A Year with Frog and Toad.”
Dallas Children’s Theater has put on an amazing performance with A Year with Frog and Toad. While the ending in many ways is just another beginning of the next season of life, the audience leaves with excitement about what is to come for this sweet duo and their animal friends. The children left the auditorium ready to create memories with their own friends and anticipating the next journey they would read with Frog and Toad.
Dallas Children’s Theater
Rosewood Center for Family Arts, 5938 Skillman Street, Dallas, TX 75231
Runs through February 28th
Performances are on Friday at 7:30 pm, Saturday at 1:30 pm, and Sunday at 1:30 pm and 4:30 pm.
ASL interpretation performance is on February 7th at 1:30 pm.
***DCT is pleased to offer its sensory-friendly performance, giving children with autism and others who need adaptations the opportunity to comfortably experience live theater with their families. This performance is on Saturday, February 20th at 1:30 pm.
Tickets are $5.00 each and interested patrons should call 214-740-0051 for tickets.
Regular ticket prices range from $17.00 to $28.00.
For tickets and information, go to www.dct.org or call the Box Office at 214-740-0051.