A Year with Frog and Toad

An Ode to Friendship

Reviewed by Mary Alderson

We live in a rather nasty world where people are often rude, disrespectful and ill-tempered. We could all take lessons in kindness and courtesy from Frog and Toad. And we’d be fortunate if that led to a friendship like theirs. A Year with Frog and Toad is now playing at Port Hope’s Capitol Theatre until June 2.

This sweet musical, based on the children’s story books, takes place over 525,600 minutes – but the fact that it encompasses a year is the only similarity to Rent. We see the four seasons go by as we follow the lives of Frog and Toad, and their various friends and neighbours. (In actual fact, the show runs just over an hour, perfect for a children’s show.)

The show is a series of vignettes, as they go through the year – little stories with cute and funny songs which make for a lively show. It’s one of those children’s shows that can also keep adults entertained, which is exactly what every grandparent wants. We took our four-year-old granddaughter, Hazel, with us, and although she is young and probably didn’t get all the nuances of the friendship, she was certainly delighted by the action, singing and dancing. The Capitol’s recent event at the Port Hope Library introduced her to the show, which helped with her enjoyment of it. She remembered the cookie song when it came up in the show from learning it at the library. I think six- to ten-year-olds might enjoy the plot most. But it’s still fun for everyone.

The stage is completely covered with amazing greenery in a swampy forest; Toad’s home on the left and Frog’s home on the right. The two are waking up from a long winter’s nap and spring is in the air.

Toad is a somewhat melancholy fellow while Frog is outgoing and friendly. Toad laments the fact that he has never received a letter in the mail. Frog goes home, writes him a letter, and gets Snail to deliver it. Yes, it’s very fitting that a snail delivers the snail mail. And while Snail demonstrates he can move along rapidly for snail, let’s face it, he is moving at a snail’s pace.

This is just a sample of the brief encounters that make up the show – each one is very endearing. The songs provide the comedy and create the laughs.

Joel Cumber is perfect as Frog – energetic and kind hearted – and teams well with Haneul Yi as the sometimes-sad Toad. Three others play several parts: Taylor Lovelace, Ben Page, and Yunike Soedarmasto. They start out as birds migrating back after a winter in the south, and then delightfully play all the other critters in the swamp. Ben Page nearly steals the show as the Snail, singing “The Letter” and “I’m Coming Out of my Shell”. Fun fact: Ben’s father is Steven Page of Bare Naked Ladies fame, who’s also a brilliant trivia player.

Other notable songs are “Cookies” and “Getta Loada Toad” with the chorus “Toad looks funny in a bathing suit”. “Down the Hill” covers a harrowing sleigh ride and “Merry Almost Christmas” is sweet and heartwarming.

Credit goes to director Fiona Sauder for keeping the pace fast, which is so important in the kids’ show, and for making it funny. Kudos to Music Director Jeff Newberry, who takes a two-piece band and makes it sound like a full orchestra.

If you enjoy shows that feel like they are happily giving you a big hug, you will like the stories of Frog and Toad. Bring a friend to share it with, and even better, bring a little friend, one under the age of 10.

A Year with Frog and Toad continues at the Capitol Theatre in Port Hope until June 2, 2024. Tickets are available at the box office by calling 905-885-1071 or visiting https://capitoltheatre.com/

Photo: Haneul Yi (Toad) and Joel Cumber (Frog) in back, Taylor Lovelace, Ben Page and Yunike Soedarmasto. Photo by Tracey Allison.

A Year with Frog and Toad
Music by Robert Reale
Book and Lyrics by Willie Reale
Based on the books by Arnold Lobel
Directed by Fiona Sauder
Musical Direction by Jeff Newberry
Performed by Joel Cumber, Haneul Yi, Taylor Lovelace, Ben Page and Yunike Soedarmasto
Capitol Theatre, 20 Queen St., Port Hope
May 17 to June 2, 2024
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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