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BWW Review: A YEAR WITH FROG AND TOAD Opens at The Coterie Theatre in Kansas City

This toad will not give you warts, but he will make your side hurt from laughing so hard. A Year with Frog and Toad opened on Friday June 19 at The Coterie Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri. Based on the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel with music by Robert Reale, book and lyrics by his brother Willie Reale.

Jerry Jay Cranford directs the tale of two amphibious creatures, the frog, and the toad. Anthony T. Edwards provides the music direction, set design by Jordan Janota, lighting design by Art Kent, and costumes by Georgianna Londre Buchanan. Producing Artistic Director Jeff Church stated that Cranford wanted to present the show as a cabaret for kids. A feat that he splendidly accomplished, as all aspects of the show come together in usual Coterie perfection, for 65 minutes of pure entertainment.

A Year with Frog and Toad opened Off-Broadway at the New Victory Theater in 2002 to sold-out theaters. In 2003, it opened at the Cort Theatre on Broadway and closed, due to high-ticket prices, after only 73 performances and 15 previews. It received three Tony Award nominations in 2003, Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Score.

A Year with Frog and Toad follows the two friends as they awake from hibernation. Joining them through this yearlong tale are their woodland friends, birds, moles, lizard, turtle, and squirrel, a cast you would expect to find in any tale from the forest. In marvelous song and dance, the creatures take the audience through the four seasons with laughs and merriment.

It would be impossible to expect anything less than pure entertainment from the A-list of entertainers that bring A Year with Frog and Toad to life. The charismatic cast put out a positive and powerful energy that fills not only the theater, but also everyone in the audience. The chemistry between the five performers is evidenced as they sing, dance, and move props around the stage.

Seth M. Jones returns to the Coterie as Frog and Steven Eubank returns as his closest friend Toad. Both have marvelous voices and comedic timing that is beyond compare. The two encourage audience members to dance with them as they sing "Cookies". When Toad tells his friend that he is sad because he never gets any mail Frog immediately writes him a letter. Yes, you guessed it by the end of the show it is delivered by Snail Mail.

Emily Shackelford, Francisco Javier Villegas return to The Coterie, and Elise Poehling makes her debut in A Year with Frog and Toad. Each masterfully taking on several roles of furry or feathered creatures who are friends of Toad and Frog. There are not enough adjectives to describe how superbly this entire cast performs. Jeremy Watson and Brant Challacombe accompany them on piano.

Do not fret all year because you missed A Year with Frog and Toad, there is plenty of time to see it. A Year with Frog and Toad continues at The Coterie through August 2. Purchase tickets by calling 816-474-6552 or online at The Coterie Theatre website. Photo by J. Robert Schraeder is courtesy of The Coterie Theatre.

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