(This review is written by American-Statesman freelance critic Claire Canavan.)
A smile from a friend can make even the worst days seem a little brighter.
Friendship is at the heart of Arnold Lobel’s popular children’s series, Frog and Toad, which Willie and Robert Reale adapt for the stage in a charming musical called “A Year With Frog and Toad.” Nat Miller directs Zach Theatre’s production of this family-friendly romp, now running through November 29.
“A Year With Frog and Toad” draws on scenes from different books in the series and takes place over the course of a year. It’s a simple tale of Frog (Nicholas Kier) and Toad (Chase Brewer) enjoying the seasons together—planting flowers in spring, swimming in the summer, raking leaves in the fall—while learning about the benefits of having a good friend. Other forest creatures make cameos, including a very slow moving snail and a trio of migrating birds.
Zach Theatre’s production is thoroughly professional in both performance and design. The actors give high-energy performances and their voices blend in harmony. The school group audience was particularly delighted by the big moments of physical comedy—Frog trying to wake a reluctant Toad up from hibernation—as well as by the bold visuals, such as cookies falling from the sky.
Design elements really shine in “A Year With Frog and Toad.” Set designer Aaron Bell has created a versatile set that evokes the play’s cozy forest world. Costume designer Christina Montgomery shows fresh vision with her costumes for the animal characters. Rather than creating literal costumes, she instead outfits the actors in colorful human clothes that gently suggest the animals. The birds wear gorgeous jewel-toned ponchos with a quilted, handmade look, making them the most fashionable feathered friends in town.
During the week, the show plays to enthusiastic crowds of AISD students, while tickets for families are available on the weekends. Children will enjoy the lively action and adults might leave the show wanting to call their best friend, just to say hello.
‘A Year With Frog and Toad’ continues through November 29, Saturdays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.; Sundays at 2:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Zach’s Kleberg Theatre, 1510 Toomey Rd. $15-$20. www.zachtheatre.org.