Here’s a show kids will eat up – and the adults with them will find surprisingly delightful. Wheelock Family Theatre is in its 35th year of presenting theater for the whole family that the whole family can afford. A YEAR WITH FROG AND TOAD (hopping through May 15th) is based on the award winning books by Arnold Lobel, turned into a pun filled musical by Robert Reale (composer) and Willie Reale (book and lyrics).
Director/choreographer Mimi Katano and company earn extra flyer miles from the antics of stars Neil A. Casey and Larry Coen: Although the story is charming all by itself, I was overjoyed to see Coen’s inner Blanche DuBois emerge, not to mention a hilarious soft shoe send-up worthy of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, made even funnier by this amphibian Odd Couple.
The music is pastiche, with a sweet country ditty for Gary Thomas Ng, as the snail Frog enlists to deliver a note to Toad. Ng is a treat. Thank heavens because the snail mail is glacial and we keep monitoring his progress throughout the show. Musical director Heather MacLaughlin Garbes gets lively singing from the entire cast, which includes headliners (!) Merle Perkins and John O’Neil in the bird chorus.
Lisa Simpson’s inspired costumes are whimsically suggestive of the animals, like bright, colorful hats with feathers for the birds and miners’ helmets for the moles. Frog is natty in his olive green suit and fedora, while Toad wears more conservative shades of brown, with polka dots on his sweater to stand in for the bumps and warts on his skin, that is, when he’s not sporting a striped bathing suit. Casey and Coen are such deft comedians, they can slay you with a look. If you miss Frog and Toad, you’ll miss out on ninety minutes of laughter... and maybe a tear when that letter arrives!