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Theater Review: A Year with Frog and Toad - The Musical

We all need friends like Frog

Rachel Fitzgerald plays Toad in the "A Year with Frog and Toad - The Musical," a co-production of the Lakewood Playhouse and The Lakewood Institute of Theatre Department. Photo credit: Kate Paterno-Lick

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Tis the season for the playhouses to be rolling out their family fare in the hopes of spreading cheer and hooking the next generation of potential theatergoers. Instead of choosing a straight up Christmas tale this year, Lakewood Playhouse chose to go the more reflective route. A Year with Frog and Toad - The Musical is a sweet story that gives a glimpse into a year of the friendship between Frog (played by Coleman Hagerman) and Toad (Rachel Fitzgerald). The daughter of Arnold Lobel who wrote and illustrated the original Frog and Toad books commissioned the cute musical. It played on Broadway and earned three Tony Award nominations in 2003 for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score.

The return of spring signals the end of Frog and Toad's hibernation. Frog is impatient for his friend to wake up but Toad is less than enthusiastic. Once Frog helps convince Toad it's time to be up, the audience gets to experience moments through the seasons. Toad is a bit curmudgeonly and fussy but that doesn't diminish the depth of Frog's kindness and thoughtfulness. Frog goes out of his way to lift Toad's spirit throughout their year together.

Having a solid script is only a part of the battle to mount a good show. Choosing the right director, cast and crew is vital and something that Lakewood Playhouse consistently does. The multi-generational cast includes actors who are making their debut to professional actors. Director Jeremy Thompson is the education director at Lakewood Playhouse and with this performance succeeds in "providing performance opportunities that build skills that help these actors reach their full potential." He keeps the actors treading the fine line of being incredible without once letting them overact or be caricatures of their characters.

The entire cast and crew deserves recognition but there isn't enough space. A few of the most notable were Hagerman and Fitzgerald. Their timing and how they played off of each other had the audience howling with laughter. Hagerman played a very dignified Frog, which added another layer of humor to the cute script. Fitzgerald's Toad was insecure and hopeful and perfect. The Squirrel children (Elia Aguilar, Gavin Reidt, Kennedy Renner and Adriana Tate) and Mouse (Nina Fowler) were incredibly adorable. Charles Stevens played Snail's "running" gag throughout to good comedic effect. The visually stunning set, lighting, and costumes made the perfect atmosphere for the actors to sing and dance their way through the year.

A Year with Frog and Toad themes of "friendship, kindness, acceptance and compassion" are ideal at anytime of the year but especially during the holidays when it can be so easy for kids to get overly excited about what they are going to get. Frog and Toad show the audience just how much focusing on others can have joy. Adults and children of all ages will be delighted and amused and find something they love. This show is so lovely it deserves to be sold out for every show.

A YEAR WITH FROG AND TOAD - THE MUSICAL, 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, through Dec. 21, Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd. SW, Lakewood, $15-$20, 253.588.0042

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