‘A Year with Frog and Toad’ at Imagination Stage

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Arnold Lobel’s lovable characters from his classic children’s books, Frog and Toad, come to life at Imagination Stage in a Tony Award-nominated musical, A Year with Frog and Toad, with books and lyrics by Willie Reale and music by Robert Reale.

The cast: Lto R: Tracy Lynn Olivera, Jobari Parker-Namdar, Stephen Edwards Horst, Matt Dewberry and Nova Y. Payton. Photo by Margot Schulman.
The cast: L to R: Tracy Lynn Olivera, Jobari Parker-Namdar, Stephen Edwards Horst, Matt Dewberry, and Nova Y. Payton. Photo by Margot Schulman.

Two vastly different friends awaken from their hibernation and together they experience the seasons through adventures full of pure silliness and tons of heart. They are visited by multitudes of friends, the moles, the birds, a mouse, a turtle, a lizard, and a snail, which all join in on the ride.

The creative team behind this production did an incredible job of making the story feel genuine and real. Colin Hovde directs this stellar production, with dynamic choreography by Rachel Leigh Dolan.

The set and stage, designed by Andrew Choen, are gorgeous, with a playful pond and lily pad stage floor. The show imaginatively incorporated the use of shadow puppets and other great lighting effects, designed by Andrew Cissna.

Kendra Rai is the Costume Designer and her fantastic creations are beautiful, and quite clearly distinguishable for each of the animals portrayed, without hindering the actors’ movement.

Three birds started off the show with the song “A Year with Frog and Toad”. Their voices were beautiful.The excitement was contagious. And from that moment on the audience was hooked.

The birds were played by Matt Dewberry, Tracy Lynn Olivera, and Nova Y. Payton. These three performers magically manage to portray 15 different characters throughout the production. From birds to moles to frogs and more, the talent in this trio is incredible.

Playing up-beat Frog is Jobari Parker-Namdar. He sings, he dances, he charms. Parker-Namdar’s Frog is 100% lovable with a gorgeous smile that radiates Frog’s happy nature.

The more worrisome, but just as adorable, Toad is played by Stephen Edwards Horst. He frets and frowns and plays the awkward friend to Frog’s easy-going ways. Horst and Parker-Namdar are a perfect pair and their devoted friendship is inspiring and joyful to watch.

This cast of five was truly flawless and each of the performers stood out at different times. A crowd song favorite is Snail’s “The Letter,” which gets reprised throughout the show. Snail takes on a mission to deliver Frog’s letter to Toad and it is not a job that he takes lightly. His journey to “quickly” get Toad his letter is ridiculous fun played out through the whole show.

The birds sing goodbye to the forest and friends as they prepare to head south for the winter. (L-R:Nova Y. Payton, Matt Dewberry, and Tracy Lynn Olivera). Photo by Margot Schulman.
The birds sing goodbye to the forest and friends as they prepare to head south for the winter. (L-R:Nova Y. Payton, Matt Dewberry, and Tracy Lynn Olivera). Photo by Margot Schulman.

Every song was bursting with energy and perfectly sung. “Getta Load of Toad” was another extravaganza of silliness. Toad is shy and embarrassed about the way he looks in his bathing suit so, naturally, everyone happens by to catch a glimpse.

From top to tail, A Year with Toad and Frog is non-stop excitement and laughter. Performed perfectly, with an incredible production team behind them, A Year with Toad and Frog is a must-see, and this goes for all age groups. I saw the production with my three young boys, who had a blast, but I would happily go again with a group of my friends. So grab a buddy, hop over to Imagination Stage, and go escape the world to enter a place where the beauty of true friendship is celebrated. What a great holiday treat for the entire family.

Running Time: 90 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.

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A Year with Toad and Frog plays through January 10th, 2016 at Imagination Stage – 4908 Auburn Avenue in Bethesda, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 301-280-1660, or purchase them online.