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A frog plus a toad equals true friendship in Richland play

By Joyce Jackson
On May 13, 2014

  • The cast of A Year with Frog and Toad entertain a mix of adults and children. Staff Photo Ashling Han

A frog and a toad took over Richland's small Arena Theater stage May 3. They didn't croak and they didn't hop. Instead, the friendly duo mingled with birds, squirrels, one feisty snail and a variety of other small creatures.

It was all part of the Drama Department's production of "A Year with Frog and Toad," a children's musical based on the books by Arnold Lobel, with lyrics by Willie Reale and music by Robert Reale.

Directed by drama professor Gregory Lush, the 90-minute afternoon musical entertained a theater full of adults and children with delightful songs, simple humor and some sassy dance steps.

What fascinated the audience in "Frog and Toad" was how enthusiastic the actors were as they played animal roles convincingly to show the true meaning of the musical, which was to demonstrate the loyalty and true friendship between Frog and Toad, a great theme for young and old.  

Kevin Dang had the lead role as Frog and Cody Samples, Toad. Their characters as frogs were complimentary, which made the musical so enjoyable. The story followed the four seasons over a year's time, resembling Lobel's books. It began at the end of winter, just as Frog and Toad are coming out of hibernation.  

Frog (Dang) continuously portrayed optimism throughout the performance while Toad (Samples) was excellent at being the worrywart. The difference in their characters was evident from the first scene. Toad became upset over breaking his alarm clock and oversleeping in hibernation, until Frog calmed him down.  

Three energetic birds, played by Zack Jones, Ashley Mullings and Madison Rey, provided plenty of song and dance, especially when they sang about the delights of spring.

In one scene, Toad wanted to plant a garden but didn't have the patience to watch the seeds grow. In another, he became sad because it's 10 a.m. and the mail was due, but he never gets any. Frog comes to the rescue; he wakes Toad only to find that the seeds have sprouted. He writes a letter to Toad to make him happy and gives it to the Snail to deliver. Each episode in the musical is a demonstration of Frog's true friendship to Toad, but the feelings are mutual.  

Ryan Nelson added some great comedy in his performance as the Snail, whose motto was, "I'm carrying a letter. I'm a snail with the mail." In every scene, the audience couldn't help but laugh as he trudged along in slow motion, taking giant steps across the stage on his way to deliver the letter to Toad. In one key scene, he sang a nice rendition of the song, "I'm Coming Out of My Shell" - and he did just that by taking it off his back.  

Ten-year-old Mason Bowling made his debut on the Richland stage as a tadpole who had a frightening experience with a Terrible Frog (Zack Jones), who was quite tall and towered over Bowling. Frog tried to tell a scary story during a dark and stormy night.  As usual, Toad was scared and Frog related a story of a young frog (Bowling) who lost his parents and escaped from a horrifying creature, the Terrible Frog, before the little frog got eaten. Bowling thoroughly capturedthe audience's attention as he gazed up at Jones, mesmerized by fear.

Other student actors who played other delightful creatures as a mouse, mole, turtle, lizard and squirrel were:  Harley Gonzales, Bridget Condra and Bismark Quintanilla

After a few more episodes, the Snail finally arrived with the letter in which Frog admited that he couldn't be happy unless Toad was. Frog's gift to Toad? A new clock. In the finale, they both reflected on how great Christmas is and how glad they were to be together in one last song, "Merry Almost Christmas."

This production clearly captured the essence of Lobel's characters in its simplicity to show the true meaning of friendship. That's a worthy goal for any children's musical.

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