Theatre review: A Year with Frog and Toad Musical, National Children’s Theatre

Having never heard of Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad stories (published in the ‘70s) until this very musical, I now suspect my childhood literary education to have been inadequate. Because my pals adored the books and my child loved the musical. With good reason – this is top-notch children’s theatre!

What it’s about

Frog is cheerful and chirpy. Toad is gruff and grumpy. The two are best friends, sharing a deeply adorable reptilian bromance. And they wake from hibernation to find, to Toad’s crusty consternation, that it’s spring-time.

The show kicks off with a vibey rendition of ‘Spring’ – look out for superlative voices and facial expressions from the three birds in boas – and moves into summer (swimming), autumn (leaf-raking and kite-flying) and winter (sledding and Christmas), before ending reliably in hibernation once again.

What to expect

Along the way, you can expect the full gamut of human emotion: the ups and downs of friendship, the need for ‘alone time’, the capacity for simple kindness, and dealing with fear and anger. You can also expect Broadway-quality stagecraft on an extremely small stage, plus jazzy liveliness.

I’m never that impressed with the polish of children’s theatre (I guess polish isn’t a priority for children.) But this show is polished. And a dream to watch.

Toad, played by Devon Flemming, is a fascinating character: neurotic, authentic, seamless and consistent. Frog, brought to life by the talented and smiling Teekay Baloyi, is annoyingly upbeat yet unfailingly lovable. And kudos to the three ensemble cast members (all adults this time) who play absolutely everyone else: JP Rossouw, Didintle Khunou and Khanyisile Nhlapho.

The highlights

For me, highlights include the imaginative costumes of Snail and Turtle; the leaf-raking scene; the beautifully whimsical set (think The Magic Faraway Tree) and catchy lyrics that kept my daughter singing all the way home.

Age recommendation

My littlie (aged four) was probably among the youngest in the audience and loved it. There were older kids, aged six and seven, who were literally open-mouthed. And even the pre-teens clapped and laughed self-consciously. Plus, there’s the added bonus that you’ll enjoy this one too. It’s adorable.

The show details

The run ends on 11 October 2015 (Mon-Sat during the term and Tue-Sun during school holidays). There are 10.30am and 2.30pm shows of 90 minutes each (with an intermission). And you’ll find it at 3 Junction Avenue, Parktown.


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