By Yashowanto Ghosh, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of Yashowanto Ghosh
Aquinas College Theatre played four shows of “A Year with Frog and Toad: A Musical,” directed and choreographed by Katherine Gibson, at the Performing Arts Center between Feb. 15 and Feb. 18, 2018, for its first production of the semester.
The show, based on four classic 1970s children’s books by Arnold Lobel, was nominated for three Tony Awards—Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Original Score—when it first played on Broadway in 2002–2003. I was probably the only person in town who had no childhood memories of the title characters, and I went and watched the show before I read the books. I went with high expectations, though, because crew member Megan Lareau had told me that, after opening night, everyone had said they would come back with their families.
And the show lived up to my expectations. Exhilarating performances, a lively score, and a colorful stage all made for a memorable evening. With just six players—a low number for a musical—playing out four seasons, there were also six musicians and a conductor providing not just the music, but also the grounding of an unchanging visual backdrop behind all the action.
Of the two title characters, Toad, was played by freshman Kaeleb Cogswell, who had already impressed as Mr. Stinger in last semester’s “Rhinoceros;” he was convincing again, and showed that he can carry a tune too. Freshman Jacob Doctor, in his first show at the college, was equally convincing as Frog; the program said he might minor in music, and the production showed he can really sing.
The assortment of characters played by freshman Molly Beausir (also in her first show at the college) and AQ Theatre veterans Emily Cipriano and Bridgette Slezak (both sophomores) formed what you might call the chorus of the show, but this was a show where the chorus could be the driving force behind the action—such as in the scene where Frog looked funny in a bathing suit and stayed as long as he could in the cold water because the chorus was waiting to see him when he came out. Much of the show’s dynamic energy stemmed from the choreography, and the trio, with Slezak as the show’s dance captain, was high-octane all evening.
The award for most laughs went to Snail, which was one of two characters played by another AQ theatre veteran, junior Christina Gonzalez. Toad complained—toward the beginning—that he never gets any mail, so Frog wrote him a letter to cheer him up, but then Frog asked Snail to deliver the letter, and Snail took the whole show—a whole year—to do it, showing up on stage at various points, always on her way to Toad. This and Toad’s broken clock were the show’s running gags, which helped provide structure to connect together what were otherwise stand-alone scenes.
After watching the show, I had to read the books, and then I saw what great love for the original, for its characters, and for their world had gone into the production.
Aquinas College Theatre’s season will feature two more shows this semester: “Vrooommm! A NASComedy” with female NASCAR drivers, April 5 to April 7, and Bill Cain’s “Equivocation,” which features William Shakespeare himself set against the background of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot, April 19 to April 22. Both shows will play at the Performing Arts Center.
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