Saturday, November 28, 2015

reviews - A YEAR WITH FROG AND TOAD - Childsplay

Jon Gentry and Dwayne Hartford
photo: Tim Trumble
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through December 27th.

"Based on a series of children stories by Arnold Lobel and adapted by Willie Reale, as the title suggests, Childplay’s production of A Year with Frog and Toad isn’t one adventure, it’s a collection of gentle, innocent stories written as seasonal events, starting with spring and ending shortly after Christmas once our two heroes have enjoyed Christmas Eve together and prepare for hibernation....The strength of Childsplay..., is its ability to mix classy entertainment while inspiring discussion of its themes.  For Frog and Toad, it’s the theme of friendship.  These characters, as different as they are from each other – Toad can be a little cranky while Frog wants only the best for his friend – have an affection for each other’s company that due to the energy and that overall sense of comic timing and professional delivery of both (Jon) Gentry and (Dwayne) Hartford, the charm feels genuine, illustrated through the things they say and do, even if there’s the occasional conflict....Technical credits are of Childsplay’s continuous high standard.  Jeff Thompson’s scenic design where elements are either lowered from above or slide on from either side are consistently eye-catching, imaginative and effective; Karen Ann Ledger’s colorful costumes are full of delights and surprises, supported by D. Daniel Hollingshead’s makeup and often amusing hair designs, while Anthony Runfola’s projection adds a dazzling big screen effect of giant, twirling snowflakes as winter approaches.  Molly Lajoie’s choreography based on the original steps of Phoenix Theatre’s Michael Barnard has that same sense of simple but highly effective charm, while Alan Ruch’s musical guidance brings out the best of voices from all the cast, backed by the recorded score from Christopher Neumeyer’s crisp sound.Children will be entranced, but there’s something special about this musical for adults to consider..... " -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"The many benefits of having a very good friend are at the heart of A Year with Frog and Toad. Based on the popular children's books by Arnold Lobel, the musical follows one year in the lives of best friends Frog and Toad as they perform daily chores and do various things together to enjoy the seasons. Childsplay's production of this family friendly show is full of vibrant characters and colorful creative elements that result in a winning fun-filled production with humor and heart. Using several of the stories from Nobel's books, along with a few of their own, brothers Robert and Willie Reale adapted Nobel's books into an upbeat, two act children's musical, but one that adults will enjoy as well. ...Robert Reale's varied score includes several toe-tapping numbers and even a sweet ballad. ...Frog and Toad are written as a typical comic duo, with Frog being the straight man and Toad the comical sidekick. Dwayne Hartford and Jon Gentry play up those aspects of their roles beautifully with Gentry very funny as the worrisome, impatient, and insecure Toad and Hartford downright charming as his sensible, best friend Frog. The two play off each other very well. Since there are only three other actors in the cast, it could be perceived as a relatively small show, but those three portray numerous other creatures that inhabit Frog and Toad's forest world. And they all portray them very well, with Yolanda London especially sassy as several characters, David Jones is a hoot as the slow moving snail, and Christiann Thijm sweet as the baby Frog....Director David Saar provides a good balance for the piece, ensuring that the serious moments land but also playing up some of the comical moments. In doing so he makes sure the children in the audience will never get too restless, as there is almost always something fun or silly happening on stage. Choreographer Molly Lajoie does a lovely job of recreating the steps originally designed by Michael Barnard, and the fun, varied, and syncopated steps are well danced by the cast. Creative elements are top notch and colorful...Everyone knows what it's like to have a best friend, someone who you share things with, occasionally get upset with, but trust through thick and then. The beauty of both Lobel's original books and this musical adaptation is that they clearly show the bond that two friends have along with the fun and little things that make those friendships work...."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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