Friday, October 30, 2015

Fun with Frog and Toad

by Kat Zukaitis
Alex Miller and Justin Michael Duval in the 2009 production of A Year with Frog and Toad.
Frog and Toad don’t have much in common. Frog is outgoing and gregarious; Toad is shy and charmingly grumpy. Frog enjoys adventures and scary stories; Toad would rather stay at home with a cozy cup of tea.

And yet, neither is really happy when their friend is not.

In A Year with Frog and Toad, the two perfectly mismatched pals weather the adventures and challenges that a new year brings. The story begins in the spring, with Frog’s energetic attempts to rouse a drowsy Toad from hibernation… even if he has to resort to trickery to do so! In the months that follow, Frog and Toad fly a kite, plant a garden, and bake a batch of utterly irresistible cookies. They secretly rake each other’s yards in the autumn, only to have their efforts erased by a pair of mischievous squirrels. One dark and stormy night, Toad is frightened out of his warty skin by his friend’s scary story about a large and terrible frog—and nearly breaks off their friendship that winter after a sledding trip goes disastrously wrong.

But a timely letter sets things to rights, and friendship proves stronger than fear for our eponymous amphibians. With the able assistance of a cheery mouse, a stalwart snail, and a host of other creatures, Frog and Toad are all set for a year that teaches them about the great power of everyday interactions.

A Year with Frog and Toad first warmed the hearts of SCR audiences in 2009. The production was such a success that we’re bringing it back this fall, complete with nearly all of the original cast members. Director Nick DeGruccio once again takes the helm, and scenic designer Fred Kinney and costume designer Soojin Lee will bring the woodland world to life with their marvelous creations. (Read more about the cast here.)

Arnold Lobel
Meet the Creators: Arnold Lobel, Adrianne Lobel & the Reale Brothers

Arnold Lobel is best known for his classic illustrated books about Frog and Toad, which have captivated generations of children with their whimsical exploration of the meaning of friendship.

Lobel began drawing early in life. While growing up in Schenectady, New York, he missed long stretches of the second grade due to illness. He passed the time by drawing animal characters, and used these characters to make friends with his classmates when he finally returned to school. Lobel later drew on the experiences like these to create the timeless characters that populate his books. “Frog and Toad,” Lobel commented, “are really two aspects of myself.”

Lobel’s books were widely read and widely praised: Frog and Toad was a Caldecott Honor book in 1971, and he won the Caldecott Medal a decade later for the lighthearted yet profound Fables. He frequently collaborated with his wife, Anita, also a talented illustrator, and found inspiration in outings with their two children. "I cannot think of any work that could be more agreeable and fun than making books for children," Lobel said. When he died in 1987, he left behind a legacy of almost 100 books.

Arnold’s daughter Adrianne Lobel, herself a noted set designer, realized the theatrical potential of her father’s work. With the assistance of Willie and Robert Reale, who wrote the book, music and lyrics, Adrianne brought A Year with Frog and Toad to life at the Children’s Theatre of Minneapolis in 2002. A sold-out run in New York followed, and the musical earned several Tony nominations. A Year with Frog and Toad has since been seen at theatres throughout the country, bringing Lobel’s beloved woodland characters to a new generation of children.

Learn more and buy tickets.

1 comment:

  1. My grandchildren and I thoroughly enjoyed this ebullient tribute to friendship last Saturday. It is their third season enjoying the Young Theater goers productions and I was most interested in hearing how they ranked the plays. Not surprisingly, Ivy and Bean and Robin Hood from their first season ranked up high. But both said Frog and Toad was either their 2nd or 3rd favorite of all the plays they have seen. The actors were fantastic and not only did they love frog and toad, but their heart was stolen by the snail. He was the super star of the evening! My granddaughter felt herself dancing long afterward along with the zippy birds - fan photos and autographs for all!
    Thank you for such inspiring and professional productions we are all able to enjoy together.