BWW Reviews: THE MAD ADVENTURES OF MR. TOAD Personifies Good Children's Theatre in the Treasure Valley
Since the building of Langroise Recital Hall on College of Idaho's campus in Caldwell, very few plays have been performed at Jewett Auditorium. I was pleased to hear, however, that not only would DreamWeaver Musical Theatre perform THE MAD ADVENTURES OF MR. TOAD on that stage, but that College of Idaho has graciously partnered with DreamWeaver for use of the auditorium over an indefinite period of time. An older stage, with plenty of seating and great acoustics, Jewett Auditorium gave a certain amount of charm to the show, even before the actors made their first entrance.
As THE MAD ADVENTURES OF MR. TOAD is only a one-act musical, there was an extensive green show, followed by a short intermission, to give the feeling of seeing a full-length performance. During the green show, the DreamWeaver Show Choir performed "Disney On Stage", a fifteen-minute medley of Disney songs, separated into three sections and arranged by Ed Lojeski. They were engaging, with striking choreography by Stephanie Higgins. For a group so young, their harmonies were often surprisingly excellent. The DreamWeaver Show Choir is directed by Candice Klassen. Xpressions Dance Studio also presented a tap number to ZZ Top's "La Grange", a jazz piece to "Devil With a Blue Dress On" by Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, and a contemporary ballet to Ben Harper's "Waiting on an Angel." As Xpressions generally takes the summer off, the performance utilized dances previously performed at their spring recital using whichever dancers were available. Understandably, they were a little underwhelming, but showed promise. I would enjoy seeing another performance during their normal performance season.
THE MAD ADVENTURES OF MR. TOAD opened with a chorus number, inviting us to "Come to the Woods." The show was off to a great start and only improved when three of the best characters entered to play out the backstory. Molly Castiel (Badger), Lanae Hartley (Rat), and Hunter Warnick (Mole) portrayed Mr. Toad's closest friends, who often drive the story, with engaging characters, good accents, and certain sparkle that only comes naturally. When Will Donahue (Toad) entered the stage, I knew that the rest of the show would not disappoint. Will had a firm grasp on comedic beats and personifying animal traits. All of these actors had very good voices and well-trained ears, although sometimes they were hard to hear over the accompaniment.
In theatre there are always cast members who have clearly honed their talent and skills, including use of accents, more than others, and MR. TOAD is no exception. It can also be expected that there will be at least one technical miss, but hopefully not enough to really slow the pace of the entire show. That said, the show was, overall, excellent. Additional elements that impressed me were the Weasels, the "intervention," the Blind Woman, and the giant thermometer. It is no surprise that director Annie Cerda and the DreamWeaver crew "pride ourselves on being Broadway-quality children's theatre." Mission accomplished.
Be sure to look for their upcoming show A CHRISTMAS STORY, THE MUSICAL. Auditions are August 29, 30, and 31. www.dreamweavermusicaltheatre.org