Monday, November 22, 2010

A Circle of Life - A Year with Frog and Toad - Musical Review

A Year with Frog and Toad - Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People - Toronto, ON - **** (out of 5 stars)
Music by Robert Reale, Book and Lyrics by Willie Reale, Based on the books by Arnold Lobel, Directed by Allen MacInnis
Runs until Dec. 30th 2010

The terrific production of the charming little Broadway musical A Year with Frog and Toad at LKTYP has had a saddened start when a few days before rehearsals, their lead Denis Simpson suddenly passed away. So perhaps in a show that takes vignettes of the odd couple friendship between Frog and Toad, from hibernation, through the warmer seasons and back into the denouement of fall and winter, that a sense of the importance of friendship and life hovers over the delightful little musical geared towards family and children of all ages.

Stepping into the role of Frog is LKTYP Artistic Director and Director of the show Allen MacInnis, but while he may usually be in charge of things behind the scenes off-stage, he gives a warm and wonderful performance on stage. His calm and loving charm is a perfect foil for the more frantic Toad, played with kid-like delight by Louise Pitre (Love, Loss, and What I Wore, Toxic Avengers Musical, Mamma Mia). It's fun to see the radiant Pitre play a mischievous creature with childlike wonderment, and her pairing with MacInnis manages to keep a professional quality to their performances while doing childish antics

While the musical follows random vignettes from Frog and Toad's life within the span of a year (all in about the span of the 70ish min. show), with no actual plot arch, the prevailing lessons of love and friendship are nicely overlaid and highlighted with the one minor plot thread that continues through the show. There are moments that do tend to stretch out too long and things begin to start feeling like a year, especially to the restless little ones, but soon enough we're onto another season with new adventures with Frog and Toad. The songs are cute and tuneful, if perhaps slightly forgettable, but as sung by this terrific cast of 5, the family-oriented show is pleasant and cozy.

Cara Hunter, Jennifer Villaverde and Kevin Dennis round out the cast as birds (below) and Turtle, Mole and Snail (respectively) and all are hilariously wonderful especially as their non-bird roles. Particularly Kevin Dennis' Snail who gets the catchiest (and most repeated) song, and who nails the hilarity of a Snail who delivers the mail, in the most winning and adorable reprised segment of the show.

The wonderful costumes by Robin Fisher aren't overly done and cleverly uses everyday clothing items and yet easily evoke the animals they are trying to portray. Fisher's sets and props are simple but effective and add a nostalgic and dare I say it, Disney charm (and I don't mean that in a bad corporate way).

I'm still a little surprised A Year with Frog and Toad, such a cute but small little show, ran on Broadway (albeit it didn't last very long) but I believe the original Broadway version was a longer 2 act version which must have been trimmed for in this LKTYP version. Which I think is a good length for all.

Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

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