Theatre Mirror Reviews - "A Year with Frog and Toad"

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note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Larry Stark

"A Year with Frog and Toad"

based on the books by Arnold Lobel
Music by Robert Reale
Lyrics by Willie Reale
Directed by Caitlin Lowans
Music Direction by Mario Cruz
Choreography by Ilyse Robbins

Set Design by Audra Avery
Costume Design by Joanna Murphy
Lighting Design by Chris Fournier
Scenic Artist Holly McClung
Production Stage Manager L. Arkansas Light

Frog........................................Steven Barkhimer
Toad.........................................Edwin M. Barker
Bird 1/Mouse/Squirrel/Young Frog/Mole..........Mary Callanan
Snail/Man Bird/Lizard/Father Frog/Mole............Matt Spano
Bird 2/Turtle/Squirrel/Mother Frog/Mole...Ceil McCaleb Zweil

Frog and Toad are friends. They say "I like you" in direct, unambiguous sentences, even though their skins are not the same color: Frog (Steven Barkhimer) is a brownish-green; Toad (Edwin M. Barker) is more orange-yellow. They and their three (or is it fifteen?) friends burst into songs by Robert and Willie Reale and with Mario Cruz conducting their dixieland beat they execute simple, simply marvellous dances by Ilyse Robbins. Charming is exactly the right word for everything --- since the little books by Arnold Lobel (they started all this) charm kids and grown-ups alike.

Audra Avery's set features bright green grass higher than either actor through which they peer and slither. The two friends wake from winter hibernation to look each other up, and share short adventures --- like sliding down a snow-covered hill on a Charlie-Card sled, or sending a letter via Mr. Snail, raking one another's leaves, flying a recalcitrant kite, or trying not to eat all the just-baked cookies till desert-time. Frog tells a scary story about a big & terrible frog-eating frog (but it turns out all right in the end!) --- and their three friends play all the parts.

Mary Callanan mostly sings, Ceil McCaleb Zweil mostly dances, but Matt Spano stops the show when he becomes a Snail comin' out of his shell. All told this trio turns into an even dozen different choristers with maybe a change of hat or voice, and a good, good time is had by all --- on-stage and in thwe audience as well. And Arnold Lobel's charming little books are available in the lobby where Frog or Toad (or maybe Both!) will sign them after the show.

"A Year with Frog and Toad" (26 February - 15 March)
395 Main Street, STONEHAM, MA
1 (781) 279-2200

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide