Every once in a while I am lucky enough to see a production that I find so in every way delightful that even the act of writing or telling other people about it is delightful too. This is how I feel about Carousel Theatre’s A Year With Frog And Toad, playing at the Waterfront Theatre until April 8.
I have been to Carousel productions before (The Wizard of Oz and Aesop’s Fables), and I’ve always been a young-at-heart-believes-in-fairies person who is interested in and enjoys stories for younger audiences, be it through theatre, film, or literature. My past experiences with Carousel have been great.
But A Year With Frog And Toad really takes the cake. The theatrical experience begins, as it seems it always does at a Carousel production, with entering the theatre and seeing an absolutely beautiful set onstage, waiting, like us, for the magic to begin. Set designer Heidi Wilkinson created two picture-perfect homes for Frog and Toad, outside and in, and the effect this set has on everyone, not just the kids in the audience, is palpable.
What follows is 60 minutes (that’s right, it’s short and sweet!) of pure delight. I am able to look at this show the way I look at a show meant for adult audiences because it is just that tight. The cues are tight, the funny bits (and the show is very funny) are perfectly-timed, and the costumes (designed by Yulia Shtern) are exactly what they ought to be down to the last dapper polka-dot (for Frog) and floppy mitten (for Toad, of course, for sledding!). The show is delivered by a seamless and talented ensemble of five performers who sang, danced, croaked, squeaked and chirped their way right into my affections in the first number and had me hanging on their string right until the finale.
But my heart, of course, goes to the dandy and particular Frog (Todd Talbot) and his slightly more disgruntled, ruffled, but no less loving best friend Toad (Josue Laboucane). To watch Toad try to coax his flowers into growing is to watch one of the sweetest and most genuine theatrical moments I have seen in YA theatre. The friendship of Frog and Toad, complete with swimsuit issues, too many cookies, and plans for rescue, feels sincere and tremendously touching. A Year With Frog and Toad is, quite simply, a year in the life of two best friends, with all the humour and heart that goes with it (I must admit I cried, I tried hard not to, because I was sitting next to a stranger, but I couldn’t help it).
In short, Carousel’s production of A Year With Frog And Toad is not just a show for kids, and it is not just on its technical and theatrical merits that adults will find entertainment and joy. Many artists I know dislike YA theatre in general because they feel it “talks down” to its audience. A Year With Frog and Toad does nothing of the sort. The fun and humour in this production are universal. And so is friendship.
Which is the point, I think. Aside from the tap-dancing forest creatures and the gorgeous set, the real story of A Year With Frog And Toad is one of friendship. Kids will love the show because it is beautiful and magical and fun. Adults will connect with the show for all of these reasons of course, but also because they’ve (sadly) had enough knocks in life to know how important and incredibly special a good friend really is.
A Year With Frog and Toad will run until April 8 at the Waterfront Theatre. Tickets can be purchased online on the Carousel Theatre website, or by calling the Carousel box office at 604-685-6217.
Disclosure: My ticket to A Year With Frog And Toad was arranged and provided by Jessie van Rijn, General Manager for Carousel Theatre. I remain the sole author of the content on NiftyNotCool.com.