“I’d like to sing a little ode, about my good friend Toad. I love a lively dialogue, with my good friend Frog.” Such begins the hour-long performance of “A Year with Frog and Toad” which opened this past weekend at Derby Dinner Playhouse .
The show opens with a musical performance by some chatty birds chirping outside of Frog and Toad’s windows, chanting in sing-song that they are heading south for the winter. With suitcases in hand, they venture off to the warmer winds where they spend their days waiting for spring to return. In the same turn, Frog and Toad are seen showing the audience what their dreams are, each one dreaming of the adventures they will have with the other.
The show, put forth by the Playhouse’s Children’s Musical Theatre , is rollicking with engrossing fun and full of humor, enchanting songs, and lessons about how important true friends are. My daughter and I attended the opening show at the lunch-hour performance and were thoroughly impressed, entertained, and left full-bellied.
Derby Dinner’s production of “A Year with Frog and Toad” is under the direction of Matt Wallace. The cast includes Cary Wiger as “Frog” and Bill Hanna as “Toad”, along with Janet Essenpreis, Kiersten Vorheis, and Chris Bryant filling in the roles of birds, moles, mice, squirrels, a turtle, and a snail “coming out of his shell.” The musical is based on the classic children’s series of early readers  written by Arnold Lobel.
I was intrigued by the vaudeville style of the show, and the use of make-belief and imagination really came quite alive throughout the entire performance. Also as captivating were the set and lighting and the sequence of events going through each season of the year. Featuring a jazzy and upbeat score, the musical is sure to fascinate your whole family.
When asked of my daughter what her favorite part was, she replied the whole thing! She really liked seeing the actors entering from the wings near the theater entrances. The snail sang his song near the corner of the dining area where we were seated and she was enthralled by it. She loved watching the actors who were also stagehands bringing in props and furniture from the theater. She also really enjoyed the scene “Shivers” in which Frog tells Toad a scary story. She thought the sound effects and lighting were very realistic. I think the Playhouse’s summer camps  are worth looking into and have made a note to check them out for my daughter, especially after seeing her reaction to the show. The camps are also lead by Children’s Theatre Director Matt Wallace and are scheduled for several weeks in July and August 2013.
I feel this show is a perfect companion for grandparents and grandchildren. I saw many of those pairs meeting that description throughout the performance. If the child in your life is celebrating a birthday, it’s a really wonderful way to give a shout-out to him or her as they are announced and welcomed before the show begins. Get all dressed up and enjoy a breakfast or lunch show on the following weekends: March 2, 9, 16, 23, and 30.
All public performances of “A Year with Frog and Toad” are on Saturdays with breakfast at 9:00 a.m. and lunch at 12:00 p.m. The shows begin approximately one hour after the buffet begins, which features a kid friendly menu including corn dogs, chicken nuggets, and corn on the cob of which my daughter indulged most unsparingly. The lunch dessert menu featured ice cream, sundaes, cookies, and a decadent chocolate cake option for parents. Prices ranged from $1.00-$4.00 for those items.
Ticket prices are $16 for the breakfast show and $21 for the lunch show. Tickets may be purchased online  or by calling the Derby Dinner Box office at 812-288-8281.
The recommendation for this production is set for ages 3-12; I agree. My daughter is almost ten and found the dialogue and humor witty and conversational. The dark piece in the musical might be a tad too scary for younger children. A young girl about the age of 3 sitting next to me was covering her eyes. That bit did not last long and a song and dance helped to distract from the scariness of it.
Derby Dinner Playhouse also hosts school performances of “A Year with Frog and Toad” throughout the week and are scheduled for several times during the remaining month of February and all through March. Teachers or school officials can inquire about these shows by calling the Playhouse at 812-288-2632.
Photo courtesy of Derby Dinner Playhouse