With toe-tapping music, great dancing and plenty of humor and warmth, Oregon Children’s Theatre’s “A Year with Frog and Toad” charmed the audience during its opening weekend.
My 7-year-old daughter Maggie and I attended the show full of curiosity to see how the play would bring Arnold Loebel’s classic stories to life. We were not disappointed by this tour through each season with friends Frog and Toad, starting when they come out of hibernation in the Spring. The musical includes many favorite stories that parents and kids will recognize, including “Shivers”, “A Swim”, and “The Letter.” The performance does a great job of weaving the stories into a larger narrative, illustrating the endearing friendship of these two friends, who despite their differences, are devoted to each other. In most scenes, Frog and Toad are joined by woodland animals, like squirrels, birds, moles, a snail postman, and a mouse who provide comedy, dancing, and singing.
“A Year with Frog & Toad” blends the charm of the original stories with upbeat singing and dancing, and a vibrant set. When Frog and Toad are trying not to eat too many cookies, the scene is energized with the cast juggling cookies and spinning plates. In another number, “Shivers,” Frog tells Toad a scary story around the fire (repeating “Maybe it’s true and maybe it’s not”). I remember reading Maggie this story and skipping over the creepy parts. Here the monster, the “Large and Terrible Frog,” is not too scary, and riveted the young audience.
Interspersed throughout the scenes with Frog and Toad, the Snail mailman provides many laughs delivering mail, including a letter that Frog has sent to Toad after Toad complains of never receiving any letters. Toad’s sledding scene is another one that had adults and kids alike laughing. Frog (Charles Grant) and Toad (James Sharinhousen) bring to life the sweet friendship from the books, and the actors’ energy, charm and sparkle makes “A Year with Frog and Toad” more than just a reenactment of the stories.
At sixty minutes, this musical is a great length for kids. We arrived early to take part in the pre-show activities, including a scavenger hunt, which never fails to entertain. After the show, stick around to meet the cast who sign autographs and take pictures. Kids love the chance to meet the actors and actresses, who have a real knack for chatting with each child and making them feel special. The line to meet the cast may look long, but it moves along quickly.
A Year with Frog & Toad runs at Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland through May 27. Recommended for ages 4+.