November 2, 2011
November 3, 2011 01:11
It's not often that students at Northwestern sit side-by-side
with 5-year-olds, let alone for over an hour to watch the same show.
But in "A Year With Frog and Toad," the children's musical by Robert
and Willie Reale,
student audiences have found themselves laughing right along with the
"A Year With Frog and Toad" is based on the "Frog and Toad"
children's stories by Arnold Lobel, and is presented through ImagineU,
a project focused on bringing theatre for young audiences to NU's
Theatre and Interpretation Center. The story follows the upbeat Frog
and the worrywart Toad through a year out of hibernation, along with
their friends: Mouse, Turtle, the three Birds and Snail. From
springtime to Christmas, Sophie Rich brings the musical year to life
with a soft-spoken, simple optimism, making it impossible for even the
grumpiest theatergoer to leave feeling jaded.
The characters themselves seem to exude the same bright,
colorful hues of the set, which change with each passing season of the
year. Zach Piser in particular, as Frog, brings unexpected wisdom and
joy to the table. Providing a foil to Piser's cheery Frog is Jake
Perlman as the bumbling yet well-meaning Toad. As with the rest of the
cast, Perlman embodies both his character's animal and personal
qualities, creating a space for understated comedy to arise — kids and
theater majors alike can't help but giggle at Perlman's animated tuba
serenade to the seeds he is trying to grow, with music and interpretive
dance as encouragement. Rounding out the ensemble are hilariously
spot-on character performances from Taylor Bostwick as sassy Turtle and
Gabrielle FeBland as a perfectly portrayed mouse, along with Meg Lowey,
Kylie Mullins and Darrin French as feathered-friend narrators. Ben
Barker as the spunky Snail steals the stage with his impassioned, if
slow, journey through the postal system, showing off a unique and
skilled vocal style along the way.
Perfect casting (the petite, squeaky FeBland as Mouse and
amphibious-limbed 6'5" dance major Josh Rubietta as Large And Terrible
Frog) keeps the plot universally entertaining without playing too much
to just the kids, as the show's moral messages are applicable for both
kids and adults. In the hilarious and relatable "Get a Loada Toad,"
Toad refuses to go swimming because he "looks funny in a bathing suit."
When Turtle catches on and spreads the news, Toad's predicament reveals
a useful lesson for kids and grown-ups alike: It's all about
confidence. Seemingly simple songs about things such as raking leaves,
flying a kite and baking cookies are actually thinly veiled moral
messages, giving the play a subtle depth that will appeal to older
Whether you're a kid deep down or are just looking to see what
NU's theatre-for-young-audiences community has to offer, "A Year with
Frog and Toad" is a bright gem that's easy on the ears as well as the
A Year With Frog and Toad will play in Struble Theater on
Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.
— Maggie Gorman