A Year with Frog and Toad
Mad Cow Theater, Orlando, FL
by Carl F. Gauze
Music by Robert Reale
Book and Lyrics by Willie Reale
Directed by Cynthia Beckert
Musical Direction by Jennifer Grey
Starring Russel Stevens and Robert Justin Dresner
Frogs and toads may look similar, but frogs love to hop while toads favor crawling. But tonight, both are anthropomorphized and they are more into friendship than motion. Frog (Stevens) tends to be more upbeat and adventurous, while Toad (Dresner) remains fearful and needs to be drawn out. Spring arrives, they both come out of hibernation, and its time to fly kites, share tea, and eventually rake leaves and slide down the wintery hill. Assorted butterflies, snails and other creatures flit about, adding atmosphere and comic relief. When Frog feels a need to send an encouraging letter to Toad, he assigns the missive to Snail (Josh Rapp) allowing time for three or four musical numbers prior to delivery. By the the curtain is about to fall, and all the supporting fauna take flight to stay warm, and that slow letter finally arrives and buttons up the story.
There’s more than just cute and cuter creatures on this stage, the message of sticking to your friend rings loud, as does the message of doing chores, having fun, and maintaining friends and other relations. Stevens stands tall and absorbs Toad’s insecurities and lesser foibles while Dresner seems the earthier amphibian here, he’s had it rough and is easily intimidated even by the rampant butterflies. There’s a trio of human ensemble players back behinds the bull rushes, and the blazing colors and rotating stage keep more adult patrons entertained. They even offer a discalimer about that rotating stage as the ushers report it made small children cry. Lurking in the back of the stage providing a live soundtrack, and the colorful and surreal set is nearly as much fun as the lead amphibians. Mad Cow’s not famous for children’s programing, but when they do produce it, they produce it well.