For many of us, we learned some of the first facets of friendship while reading Arnold Lobel’s beloved series of books about the ever-cheerful Frog, the curmudgeonly Toad, and all of their friends that live with them down in the grasses. Lobel’s Frog and Toad books are timeless and the pure-hearted Broadway musical, A Year with Frog and Toad, opening at Williams Theatre on September 21, is proving to be equally adored over time.
But parents and grandparents beware! You should know from the outset that little kids really, really relate to these two friends and find creative ways to reflect these joyful stories in their own friendships.
While the musical speaks specifically to boys and girls who have yet to reach the age of iPhones and boy bands, adults can spend some tranquil time in the theater with their little ones enjoying this gentle production about the simple friendship of two slime-free amphibians set to song.
In 2003, it was a leap of faith to take the musical by brothers Willie Reale (book and lyrics) and Robert Reale (music) from the Children’s Theater Company of Minneapolis to New York City. In a metropolis, where theater tickets soar past $100, it played to packed houses at the New Victory Theater.
The musical follows Frog and Toad through four colorful seasons, from hibernation to hibernation, featuring catchy tunes, funny dialogue, and bright, memorable characters. Whether they’re rushing down a hill in a runaway sled with their playful, quirky friends Snail, Turtle, and the Birds, or losing all willpower when confronted with the cookie jar, or taking a picnic in the summer, their adventures make for some of the simplest — and most enjoyable — moments on stage.
A Year with Frog and Toad is the first children’s theater production done by our department and it has posed new types of challenges for us. The genre demands a broad style of performance — big facial expressions and definitive character traits formed with the whole body in grand strokes.
In our increasingly fast-paced world, where friendships are often seen through a digital filter, it’s good to be reminded that sharing the simplest adventures with our best friends often brings us the greatest joy. And, that includes going to the theater with your favorite children.