ANDERSON, Ind. — An easygoing green frog and a worrywart brown toad define the best kind of friendship in the simple children’s stories of Frog and Toad, written by Arnold Lobel.
The amphibious pair share life and a few of its lessons through the lens of unconditional love in the '70’s era books.
As delightful as Lobel’s children’s readers are, Anderson’s Mainstage Theatre production of “A Year with Frog and Toad” delivers the package with a bow on it.
Based on Lobel’s stories, Robert and Willie Reale wrote the play co-directed for the Mainstage by Bill Malone and Elmore Hammes. The show opens today.
The musical production presents vignettes that tell the story of the two friends throughout a year, thoroughly tuned into nature and the seasons. From flying a kite to raking leaves or baking cookies, each scene is presented with charming simplicity appealing to both children and adults.
The colorful cast of characters, whimsical music and dancing delight as well as amuse, evoking plenty of laughter and smiles.
The two main characters are well cast in Judge Morton and Bill Malone. Morton, as the amiable and imperturbable Frog, sings with an unpretentious charm, if not the strongest vocal capabilities, almost as if we have stumbled into Mister Rogers’ neighborhood.
Bill Malone as Toad approaches life tentatively, clutching his robe because he’s worried how he looks in a bathing suit, or with wide-eyed terror and trembling hands as he sleds down a snowy hill.
While Morton and Malone carry the story, the rest of the cast is essential to the appeal of the production. The bright chorus of birds bring color and sparkle to the stage, as well as strong vocals, choreography and pizzazz. Dressed in vivid blues and reds, with yellow stockings, of course, the birds are reminiscent of '20’s flappers. Spencer Martin, in his bright red zoot suit, takes ownership as a leader in the flock.