The Year of Toad and Frog

Posted February 5, 2009 in

The Frog and Toad children’s books by Arnold Lobel teach about friendship and loyalty between the two title characters. The episodic stories are set in a swamp and feature a host of other animal characters such as birds, turtles, moles and hedgehogs—so. the challenge of the Main Street Theater Company and director Craig Belknap was to bring all of this to life with music and a cast of five.


Upon entering the Lewis Playhouse in Rancho Cucamonga, the mood-setting sound of interspersing frogs, crickets, and other swamp life reverberates throughout the theater. The company has decorated the stage with long green grass and a color pattern that is faithful to Lobel’s illustrations; jaunty ragtime music the actors as they appear. The cast is not dressed up in elaborate animal costumes, but in clothing that is used to suggest who the characters are and what animal. The illusion is meant to work wonders on t the imagination of the children. As Belknap says, “Children are more clever than we think—a lot of children’s theater kind of condescends to them.”


Main Street’s adaptation of A Year With Frog and Toad  is true in form to the Lobel books in that it doesn’t have one main plotline, rather it’s separated into several different segments, each one with a song accompanying it. The story begins with Frog and Toad awakening from their hibernation in spring and then follows the two through different adventures (and misadventures) seasonally through summer, fall and winter. There’s a fine balance between detailed set pieces—such as Toad’s house—and using stage manipulations to create effects on stage. For example, Frog and Toad sled down a hill, the effect is created by a white sheet and sellable acting—and moments like these are what the success of the show rests on. All the elements come together beautifully in a rendition that will stimulate a child’s imagination, and stir a parent’s sense of wonder too. (Chris Millan)


A Year With Frog and Toad at the Lewis Family Playhouse, 12505 Cultural Center Dr., Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 477-2775; Thru Sat., Feb. 14. General admission $16.50, Seniors $14.50, ages 12 and under $13.50


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