Regional Reviews: Seattle
A Year With Frog and Toad Charms at SCT
Short, sweet, intimate, tuneful and engaging, the musical A Year With Frog and Toad may have been a Best Musical Tony award nominee somewhat by default in 2003 when Hairspray deservedly won, beating Movin' Out and Amour as well. Happily, it admirably suits Seattle Children's Theatre, co-producing with the Arizona based Childsplay company, and on opening night seemed to be as big a hit with the young as well as the young at heart in the audience.
Based on the popular Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel lovingly adapted with tuneful music by Robert Reale, and a charming book and lyrics by Willie Reale, A Year With Frog and Toad is a totally character-driven series of vignettes, spanning from one spring to another, in the company of Frog, Toad, their Bird friends, and a scene-stealing snail. David Saar's direction is blithe and never cloying, and Michael Barnard's choreography is basic yet snappy. Edie Whitsett's colorful and versatile set and Karen A. Ledger's captivating costumes jump right off of the page, right along with the small but satisfying and savvy cast.
Katie McFadzen, Leslie Law and Auston James
Jon Gentry as the often irascible Toad is perfectly cast, both in terms of personality and physicality. D. Scott Withers as the more carefree and adventurous Frog pairs well with Gentry, as the two celebrate the joys of swimming in the summer, chowing down on homemade cookies, or just reveling in each other's company. The pair are at their most endearing on the melodic ballad "Merry Almost Christmas." Early on in the show, Frog, finding that Toad has never gotten a letter, writes one to him and enlists a friendly neighborhood Snail to deliver it, giving the modern slang term "snail mail" a whole new meaning. Auston James as the Snail delivers not only the aforementioned letter, in due ... well overdue time, but also smashingly sells the show's two catchiest songs "The Letter" and "I'm Coming Out of My Shell." As a game and occasionally caustic pair of Birds, Katie McFadzen and especially the always engaging Leslie Law, complete the small, high energy company.
Far and away the best musical I have seen at SCT, A Year With Frog and Toad is a low-key charmer, on the order of the original, Off-Broadway You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. In fact, had the show been done in an intimate Off-Broadway house during its New York tenure, I wager it would have had the much longer life in the Big Apple that it deserved.
A Year With Frog and Toad runs through June 5, 2005 at Seattle Children's Theatre, 201 Thomas Street, in Seattle Center. For more information visit SCT on-line at www.sct.org
- David-Edward Hughes