By Lynn Venhaus
Filled with whimsy and good cheer, “A Year with Frog and Toad” is a delightful example of clever staging and accessible theater for multi-ages.
The innovative Fly North Theatricals is presenting this sweet, sentimental show about friendship for free to all who can show their vaccination card and matching ID at the door. No ticket needed but there is limited seating because of social distancing.
The musical continues this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at The Marcelle Theatre in the Grand Center Theatre District.
Colin Healy and Bradley Rohlf, two creatives who founded Fly North Theatricals in 2019, are making sensible, affordable art and have established a Theatre for All initiative as part of their mission.
In this make-believe adventure, they are doing double-duty as the two amphibious leads. Rohlf plays the popular perky Frog while Healy is the grumpy worry-wart Toad as they journey through four seasons.
They are joined in their woodland by a Snail, Turtle, Bird, Mouse, Mole and several other frogs. The young actors playing these characters sing and dance in musical numbers that recall vaudeville and merry make-believe.
The students of Fly North, who take voice and/or dance lessons, are cast members who bring a youthful energy to the production: Claudia Taylor, Trey Perlut, Ella Penico, Aislyn Morrow, Sarah Brown, Aiden Gildehaus and Julie Harris.
Earnestly directed by Alicia Like with a young audience in mind, she keeps the 85-minute show bright and breezy. Music Director Jermaine Manor smoothly kept the focus on entertaining all ages.
Their year begins in the Spring, as they wake from hibernation. They plant gardens. They swim in the Summer, rake leaves in the Fall and go sledding in the Winter.
As the two best friends celebrate their differences that make them unique and special, they learn life lessons along the way. In a non-cloying way, they tackle anxiety and fears – blissfully free of corny cheesy jokes.
The musical, based on the beloved children’s book series by Arnold Lobel, was nominated for three Tony Awards in 2003, including Best Musical. Because of its success, it was heralded as mainstreaming a children’s production as “regular” theater.
An enchanting score by brothers Robert and Willie Real is brought to life by conductor Jeremy Jacobs, also on keyboards, who leads the four -piece band with aplomb. Luke Mankovich is on reeds, Jacob Mreen on bass and Matthew Clark handles percussion.
Choreographers Angela Brandow and Carly Niehaus used a light touch in the peppy numbers to keep the show up-tempo and fun.
Stellar work is evident from light board operator Mason Hagarty and sound board operator Matthew Garrison, with fine lighting and strong sound without any difficulty.
Lauren Perry has designed the simple set with imagination in mind while costumer Sam Hayes mixed 19th and 20th century outfits and included animal accoutrements, like turtle shells, when necessary. Old-timey hats complete Frog’s and Toad’s appearances well.
An appealing romp for those young at heart who see imagination as a wide canvas, “A Year with Frog and Toad” is a good way to ease back into bringing young people to the theater. And watching such a cheerful presentation will make you smile underneath your mask!
To support their “Theatre for All” initiative, find out more: https://www.flynorthmusic.com/theatre-for-all
And/or attend their VIP fundraising brunch on Sunday, Nov. 14. Doors open at 11 a.m., and each ticket comes with one reserved seat for the closing performance of “A Year with Frog and Toad.”
The brunch will include a Breakfast Taco Bar from The Fifth Wheel of the Bailey’s restaurant family, bottomless mimosas and coffee and performances from cast members. The Studio Open House will be at 3617 Grandel Square in St. Louis.
Tickets are available on their website and all proceeds go toward future productions and resources for FNT students. Single tickets are available for a $100 minimum donation.
Part of FNT’s mission of promoting education through performance is to involve the students of its private voice and dance studio on and off stage in every show. This production has students work alongside their teachers to produce something wacky, fun, formative, and memorable. For more information, visit www.flynorththeatricals.com
NOTE: In accordance with the Kranzberg Arts Foundation’s recent COVID policy update, all attendees of “A Year with Frog And Toad” must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a recent negative test conducted less than 72 hours prior for admittance.
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.