‘Frog & Toad’ Celebrates Childhood Joys

05Mar09

Currently at Stoneham Theatre

The family-friendly Broadway musical currently on stage at Stoneham Theatre, “A Year with Frog and Toad,” follows the year-long adventures of Frog and Toad and their animal friends – bird, mouse, snail, turtle, mole and lizard. Based on the whimsical children’s stories by Arnold Lobel, the show consists of a compilation of different Lobel books and stories set to music.

While the stories, with their simple language and themes, appear to be aimed at very young children, the catchy music and clever lyrical word-play will appeal to all ages. (The three senior citizens sitting to my left thoroughly enjoyed last Saturday’s matinee.)

The story begins as buddies Frog (played by Stephen Barkhimer) and Toad (Edward M. Barker) awake one April from their long winter hibernation and follows them through the ensuing summer fall and winter. Actors Mary Callahan, Matt Spano and Ceit McCaleb Zweil each handle a variety of roles as animal friends and neighbors to Frog and Toad. Their adventures tend towards seasonal activities that kids can identify with: swimming, sledding, flying kites, watching flowers grow, playing in leaves, taking walks and baking cookies.

Common childhood concerns are also addressed, like fear of getting lost, monsters (the “Large and Terrible Frog”) and kids making fun of each other. One song “Getta Loada Toad,” which features the refrain, “Toad Looks Funny in a Bathing Suit” sung by the trio of Turtle, Lizard and Mouse.

“Five things you cannot dispute / Turtle always tells the troot / Bamboo comes from a bamboo shoot / Rutabaga comes from a rutabaga root / Bananas are the funniest fruit / And toad looks funny in a bathing suit.”

There are no elaborate animal costumes on display here. Playing Frog, Barkhimer dresses in mostly green street clothes, while Barker’s Toad is attired mainly in brown. The rest of the characters follow suit “Snail” carries a large backpack, which represents not only his shell but an object every kid can identify with. Snail (Matt Spano) sings a couple of the more memorable silly songs, “I’m Coming Out of My Shell” and “The Letter,” a ditty about delivering the mail.

“I’m the snail with the mail / I deliver without fail / In the rain sleet or snow / No snail has feet more fleeta / Why I’m practically a cheetah / I put the go in escargot.”

“A Year with Frog and Toad” is a family show in more ways than one. The show was conceived and originally produced by Arnold Lobel’s daughter, noted set designer Adrianne Lobel, based on her father’s stories.

Despite the recent snow, “A Year with Frog and Toad,” cheerfully reminds children and adults that every season offers its own joys and wonders and that spring is always just around the corner.

“A Year with Frog and Toad” runs through March 15 at Stoneham Theatre, 395 Main St., Stoneham. For tickets and show times go online at http://www.stonehamtheatre.org or phone 781-279-2200.

[A YEAR WITH FROG AND TOAD, based on the books of Arnold Lobel. Music by Robert Reale. Lyrics by Willie Reale. Directed by Caitlin Lowans. Choreographer, Ilyse Robbins. Music Director, Mario Cruz, Set Design, Audra Avery. Costume Design, Joanna Murphy. Lighting Design, Chris Fournier. Scenic Artist, Holly McClung. Production Stage Manager, L. Arkansas Light. Starring Edward M. Barker, Steven Barkhiser, Mary Callahan, Matt Spano and Ceit McCaleb Zweil. Musicians: Bill Buonocore, Tim Cote, Rick Copeland, Mick Lewander, Rob Orr and Jeri Sykes.]

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One Response to “‘Frog & Toad’ Celebrates Childhood Joys”

  1. I am undergoing a mild Frog & Toad obsession after going to see it yesterday with my 4-year-old son. I enjoyed reading your review of it, and especially enjoyed the lyrics you provided here — they were two (the truth & bamboo shoot song and the snail mail song) of my many, many favorite moments in this wonderful family musical!


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