Review: A Year with Frog and Toad

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Hop on over to Nashville Children's Theatre for its sensational spring musical celebrating the beauty of friendship.

A Year with Frog and Toad (April 14 – May 15; All ages)
Nashville Children’s Theatre
25 Middleton St., Nashville
615-252-4675 • nashvillect.org
Show times: Sat 11 a.m., Sun 2 p.m.
Tickets: $20 adults, $15 children

An absolutely delightful theater experience for kids of all ages is hopping across the Nashville Children’s Theatre (NCT) stage during its final production of the season, A Year With Frog and Toad.

The musical, with book and lyrics by Willie Reale and music by Robert Reale, is based on Arnold Lobel’s wildly popular series of easy-reader children’s books from the 1970s. A Year With Frog and Toad has an interesting stage history few children’s musicals enjoy. Lobel’s daughter, Adrianne, commissioned the musical which was workshopped at New York Stage and Film 16 years ago and was first produced by the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis with an August 2002 premiere.

In November 2002, A Year With Frog and Toad made the leap to New York City celebrating sold-out success off-Broadway before prior to a two-month stint on Broadway in spring 2003. It earned Tony Award nominations for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score.

Shawn Knight’s impeccable direction of NCT’s spectacular production captures the fun and frivolity of friendships in a magical way that’s easily relatable to children and adults, too. A Year with Frog and Toad features a cast of NCT veterans and audience favorites, including Patrick Waller (Frog), Bobby Wyckoff (Toad), James Rudolph (Man Bird/Snail/Lizard/Father Frog/Mole), Rona Carter (Lady Bird/Turtle/Squirrel/Mother Frog/Mole) and Amanda Card (Lady Bird/Mouse/Squirrel/Young Frog/Mole).

NCT A Year with Frog and Toad

Patrick Waller (center, back) as “Frog” and Bobby Wyckoff (front) as “Toad” in NCT’s “A Year with Frog and Toad.” Photo credit: Colin Peterson.

Waller and Wyckoff’s on-stage chemistry is strong. They play well off each other and bring Lobel’s amphibian pals to life with lots of humor, energy and charm. The show follows the duo through a full year of life’s ups and downs together, from awakening out of hibernation to welcome spring and swimming in the local pond to facing fears to performing acts of kindness for each other to wintertime sledding and celebrating the holidays. Both actors’ talent for playing whimsical characters shines bright in this show.

Along the way, Rudolph, Carter and Card’s multiple roles fill in lots more action and comical moments, like Rudolph’s hysterical portrayal of slow-poke Snail. He entertains the audiences with several reprises of his musical number, “The Letter,” during his character’s quest to deliver a piece of mail to Toad from Frog that takes almost the full year as he’s moving at, well, a snail’s pace! Rudolph’s funniest moment comes by livening things up with his bold number, “I’m Coming Out of My Shell,” which his character literally does with sass while proclaiming he’s “going POSTAL!”

All of the musical numbers are cleverly written with great rhyme scheme, witty lyrics and catchy melodies. An across-the-board audience favorite is the jazzy, high-energy “Getta Loada Toad” that finds Frog, Turtle, Mouse and Lizard having a good laugh at how silly Toad looks in his bathing suit, much to the warty amphibian’s chagrin. Kids in the audience especially love the other spirited musical number, “Cookies,” which strikes a chord with anyone who has a hard time keeping their hands off treats between mealtimes.

There’s much to love about this NCT production, and among what’s great that it’s equally entertaining for moms and dads as well as the pint-sized crowd. A hefty amount of dialogue and lyrics boast a bevy of humor appealing to the masses — there are plenty of authentic laugh-out-loud moments to entertain everyone.

At the root of the story is a simple truth that resonates strongly in today’s world: the differences in how we look and who we are should not divide us, because the strong bond of genuine friendship celebrates the uniqueness we individually possess.

A Year With Frog and Toad is a rollicking good time you and your kids will surely enjoy sharing together this spring season.

 

 

Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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