A Year with Frog and Toad

Ivy Tech Waldron Auditorium

H-T Review

Review: Spending an afternoon with Frog and Toad like a local rite of passage

By Matthew Waterman
April 26, 2017

Reid Henderson as Frog & A.D. Weaver as Toad. Photo by Blueline.

There’s only one play that holds the honor of having been produced by Cardinal Stage Company three times: “A Year with Frog and Toad.” It was part of the company’s first season ever in 2006, made a return in 2011 and is now entertaining Bloomington-area kids once again.

Ordinarily, three cracks at the same show in 11 years would raise eyebrows. But when it comes to children’s theater, a gap of five or six years is plenty of time for the audience to either forget the show or outgrow it and be replaced by a new generation.

Besides, “A Year with Frog and Toad” is an absolute classic. The musical is about 15 years old, but the books on which it is based were written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel in the 1970s.

Randy White directed the most recent production in the auditorium of the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center.

The musical depicts a series of episodes taken from a year in Frog and Toad’s enduring friendship. It begins with Frog waking Toad up from hibernation season. It’s April, but Toad’s not having it. He insists on sleeping through May. Frog lets Toad go back to sleep, turns his calendar to May and wakes him up again. This time Toad is happy to rise, praising what difference an extra month makes.

The show progresses with more sweet and amusing vignettes. Toad plants a garden and learns that plants cannot be coerced into growing immediately. When Frog and Toad go swimming, Toad airs his insecurities about how he looks in a bathing suit (toads wear bathing suits?).

The two endearing amphibians wrestle with self-control when they bake a batch of cookies so scrumptious that they can’t stop themselves from eating them. They tie them up in a box with string, only to have the devastating realization that they can just untie the string when they want more.

Reid Henderson and A.D. Weaver are the jovial duo of Frog and Toad, respectively. Both are enthusiastic and engaging performers. The characters are similar but not quite the same (kind of like frogs and toads); Frog is just a little bit more responsible.

There are three other cast members, all matching the leads in their commitment and silliness. Maria Walker and Audie Deinlein play the migrating, singing birds (in addition to other minor characters). Christian Fary (to be replaced by Matthew Weidenbener after May 2) is an absolute delight as Snail, slowly scooting along throughout the show to deliver Frog’s letter to Toad.

The production overall is of a quality that the majority of age-appropriate viewers will enjoy. While there are plenty of jokes, it’s not mainly about laughs; there were only a few big laughs in Sunday afternoon’s performance. Still, the kids’ attention was overwhelmingly on the show, even though it’s a bit long (over an hour with no intermission) and has no central conflict.

The show’s charm owes a lot to Robert Reale’s Tony-nominated score. The cast, under the musical direction of Brian Samarzea, excellently sings Reale’s melodies to recorded accompaniment.

Credit must also go to Shane Cinal’s creative and colorful set. Becky Underwood’s costumes strike a nice balance between showing the characters’ species and personifying them.

If your kids or grandkids are going to be spending much time indoors in the next couple weeks, away from the beautiful weather, don’t let it all go to watching television. Frog and Toad are in town.

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