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Hop Over To The Goodman To Catch 'Frog and Toad'

The Chicago Children's Theatre is making a big splash at the Goodman's Owen/> Theatre/>/> with their inaugural production of Robert and Willie Reale's Tony Award-nominated musical, A Year With Frog and Toad.

The musical remains true to the spirit of the original children's stories created by Arnold Lobel. It follows two best friends in their adventures throughout the spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Frog, played by Joseph Anthony Foronda, is a positive, well-liked amphibian and Toad, played by Bradley Mott, is the unpopular one with warts.

Foronda brings a contagious smile and wonderful vocals to the part of Frog. Watching him on stage is an absolute pleasure as he sings, dances, hops, and tells scary stories. Mott is simply hilarious to watch in his portrayal of Toad. His comedic timing is brilliant! Not only were the children laughing their little heads off with him, but the adults were chuckling too. Foronda and Mott's chemistry is excellent on stage, and they immediately convince you that they have been best friends forever.

What elevates this show to a higher level are the remarkable performances by the three ensemble members who play multiple characters including a mouse, snail, turtle, and birds. La Shawn Banks, Ora Jones, and Julie Ruth and are absolutely delightful. Each one of them has a dazzling voice and strong stage presence.  Some of the best moments on stage are when the three characters make fun of Toad in his bathing suit during the song, "Getta Load of Toad," or when they mock Toad and Frog's kite flying skills in the number, "The Kite." Ruth was simply adorable as the part of the mouse, and the most hilarious performance of the evening is Banks' portrayal of the not-so-speedy Snail, who takes four seasons to deliver Frog's letter to Toad.

Geoffrey M. Curley's set design takes you right inside a magical storybook. The homes he designed flawlessly highlight the characteristics of Frog and Toad. The attention to detail in this show is striking and heartwarming. From the larger than life leaves that fall during autumn, to the frog shaped teapot, no prop was left unnoticed. John Culbert's lighting design effectively transitions from season to season and Rachel Healy's costume design only added to an already impressive production.

The smiles on the faces of adults and children alike are a good sign that Chicago Children's Theatre is off to a great start. If their upcoming shows are even half as fun as A Year With Frog and Toad, Chicago is in for a real treat.

A Year With Frog and Toad
When: Through March 5th
Where: Goodman's Owen Theatre, 170 North Dearborn St., Chicago
Prices: $17 - $35


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