Frog Toad
In search of more Saturday night holiday pleasures – Mrs K and I ventured up to Carmel (with granddaughter Hanna again) to take in Actors Theatre of Indiana’s production of Robert and Willie Reale’s musical A Year With Frog and Toad. Though not a Christmasy production in the strictest sense, the show was a rollickingly delightful treat, featuring superior performances by all in the tidy cast of five.

Based on Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad series of children’s books, the show opened on Broadway in 2003, after a successful off-Broadway run and was considered a breakthrough as it was aimed specifically at younger patrons. I found last night’s show to be enjoyed by all of my fellow audience members, no matter what their age was. This was due, I think, to director Judy Fitzgerald’s (and the cast’s) ability to find just the right level of childish play in their roles. Never too foolish, but never very serious either, the action is both hilarious and poignant, full of the silly type of story-telling kids love, and yet intelligently thoughtful enough that adults can enjoy it as well.

Bradley Reynolds is Toad and Don Farrell is Frog in ATI's "A Year With Frog and Toad"

Bradley Reynolds is Frog and Don Farrell is Toad in ATI’s “A Year With Frog and Toad”

Leading the way are actors Don Farrell as Toad and Bradley Reynolds as Frog. Both are perfect in their roles: Farrell bringing his many talents to portraying the ever unsure Toad, with a myriad of facial expressions and moods; while Reynold’s gift for understatement makes the rather more able Frog the ideal friend – steady, knowing, and supportive. This is the same team of actors who brought us Oscar and Felix in ATI’s The Odd Couple a month or so ago. That production showed their aptitude as a pairing; this current show further displays the duo’s gift for stage interaction. They work remarkably well together.

The supporting cast of Tim Hunt, Jessica Ann Murphy and Mary Jayne Waddell, who portray the other creatures in the show (from birds to squirrels, moles, a snail and a lizard), all give full and flawless turns in their many roles. Highlighted by a tuneful bird trio and Hunt’s woefully slow snail – this group of performers sing, dance and render their roles with great energy and style. They are a huge asset to the show and really seem to have fun giving us fun.

All these characters come to us in beautiful and whimsical attire from costume designer Margaret Ozemet, on the neatly adaptive set from set designer Bernie Killian. The snappy score was directed by Brent Marty and Cynthia Collins’ choreography was delightful and lively throughout the many numbers.

If you are looking for a holiday treat for the kids and the family, that is different from the norm of Christmas music and Dickensy fare, let me suggest that you check out ATI’s offering for the season. It will bring delightful joy to the children and be thoroughly satisfying entertainment for the grownups. And you may just learn some lessons about patience, determination and generosity along the way!

The cast of "A Year With Frog and Toad" meets with audience members after the show

The cast of “A Year With Frog and Toad” meets with audience members after the show

A Year With Frog and Toad continues with Thurs-Sun performances through December 22. To find out exact times go to or call the box office at 317-843-3800.

Let me add a bit of info about the wonderful Center for the Performing Arts venue. This is indeed a crown jewel for Carmel. The stage facilities are beautiful and very patron friendly, with free parking in the adjacent parking garages, it is entirely well-staffed inside and out and offers comfortable seating in the theatres. I have had a chance to be in all the theatre spaces save the Tarkington-Civic, and have been in the remarkable backstage area of the Palladium, where I had the great fortune to perform last spring, and I must say – this is an awesome setting for patron and performer alike. If you have not made the trip to Carmel’s extraordinary Center, do not delay. This is the foremost venue in the Midwest.