Dallas — Getta loada Toad! He's back with his friend, Frog, and a menagerie of birds, moles, squirrels, a turtle, a mouse and one very determined snail in a sweet, funny story of friendship in A Year With Frog and Toad at Dallas Children's Theater through Feb. 28.
The Tony Award-nominated musical with book and lyrics by Willie Reale and music by Robert Reale is based on Arnold Lobel's beloved picture books about a pair of amphibian friends who weather everything together, including the weather. DCT last staged the production in 2008. Eight years later, the same director, Cheryl Denson, brings the musical alive again with most of the same cast, including Brian Hathaway as Toad. James McQuillen provides musical direction for the whimsical score.
Frog and Toad's year begins in spring, with the return of the birds (Beth Albright, Darius-Anthony Robinson and Kylie Arnold), who have been vacationing in the south. Frog and Toad awake from their hibernation after visiting one another in their dreams. The amphibian pals hop right to it, planting gardens, swimming, picnicking, flying kites, having tea, and even sledding before it's time to snuggle back down for a long winter's nap.
Christopher Curtis jumps into the role of Frog, and his compatibility with Hathaway as Toad is comfortable and familiar. Their personalities and antics make Curtis' character more of the wiser, more reserved, "straight Frog" of the duo, while Hathaway's expressive face, childlike emotions and antics provide the laughs. Both men play off each other perfectly, like they have been BFFs for years.
Their support team of critters is cute and silly. Robinson almost runs away with the show as the hilarious Snail that illustrates exactly why posted letters are considered "snail mail." But when he manages to deliver his precious post, it arrives exactly at the right time in the story.
Amanda Capshaw's costume design is clever and subtle. Instead of putting her animal characters in fake animal bodies, she imbues them with touches that evoke their particular species, like feathered hats and yellow shoes for the birds and dark goggles for the moles. Frog and Toad look dapper in greens and browns.
Scenic designer Jeffrey Franks creates a lush, green playground of vegetation and rocks for the characters, complemented by Linda Blase's detailed lighting design. There are individually designed houses for Frog and Toad that suit each of their personalities. Franks also contributes amazing video projections that not only enhance the story, they move the story along when set and costume changes are necessary. Albright's "Underwater Ballet" as Turtle playing with projections of fish and an ornery octopus is captivating and hilarious, and the projections that have Arnold as Baby Frog swinging a jump rope for the Menace Frog are just incredible.
The show's songs are a well-balanced mix of upbeat and ballad. Standouts are "Getta Loada Toad," with Jeremy Dumont's clever choreography, and the crowd-pleasing "Cookies." Warning: Don't be surprised if the whole family ends up going home singing Snail's catchy "The Letter."
While DCT recommends A Year With Frog and Toad for those 4 years old and older, there is much in the show to entertain all ages, even the adults, who were having as much fun as the kids in the packed house on opening night.
Like an old friend, A Year With Frog and Toad is a timeless tale of true friendship worth revisiting.