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'A Year With Frog and Toad' is a Year to Remember

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It's been quite a while since I took the family to a Children's Theatre. When I saw that the Pumpkin Theatre would be presenting the Tony-nominated "A Year with Frog and Toad", I decided to revisit this medium. Baltimore's Pumpkin Theatre is now in its 38th season and is currently ensconced in an idyllic setting on the grounds of a lovely private school, St. Timothy's, at 8400 Greenspring Avenue. You pass horses, water-fountains in a pond, past a nature center to the beautiful Hannah More Arts Center, a 300 seat theater with no problems with parking. Leading the Pumpkin Theatre for the sixth time is acclaimed Baltimore director Todd Pearthree and he acts as both Director and Choreographer and does a stellar job at both.

What a way to introduce theater to children!! Before the show begins, those children celebrating their birthdays are brought to the stage, their names announced and ages and the audience sings Happy Birthday. At this performance, the birthday celebrants were Nina (4), Ben (7), Michael (7), and Hannah (6). They were noticeably touched when their parents, relatives, and friends in the audience sang to them.

 "A Year with Frog and Toad" is based on the famous children's books by Arnold Lobel, with music by Robert Reale and Book and Lyrics by his brother Willie. I had seen a production of theirs at the Williamstown Theater Festival called "Quark Victory" which starred "Rent" Tony-winner Wilson Germaine-Heredia and it was quite enjoyable. So I was really looking forward to the Reale's first experience which hit Broadway and I was not disappointed. The music is quite enjoyable and the lyrics are terrific.

 Frog, played by Michael Himelfarb, is just plain terrific. Toad is played by Patrick Martyn and the two work very well together. Two highlights are Cindy Rinaldi and Sarah Fitzpatrick who play the Lady Birds. There are many lovely tunes which are accompanied by the Musical Director, R. Christopher Rose and an uncredited drummer. The costumes by Will Crowther are clever. The only problem I have is that the show only plays two week-ends. Last Saturday's 1 p.m. show was sold-out. This week-end's shows I'm sure will also be sold-out. Pumpkin Theatre's presentations are always at 1 and 3 p.m. The show lasts a swift 65 minutes, just enough for young children.

In what I assume is a tradition, after the show, the young audience gets an opportunity to meet the cast and get autographs and they LOVED this. The Pumpkin Theatre's next production is "Stuart Little" (rescheduled for June 10 & 11) is already sold-out. So…do yourself a favor and bring the kids (if they have tickets left) for the shows this week-end, Saturday and Sunday (1 & 3 p.m.). Call 410-828-1804 to make reservations.

Pumpkin Theatre has announced two Summer Theatre Camps. There is a Musical Theatre Conservatory (for more experience performers aged 10-18) from June 19-July 8. They will be performing a full length version of Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods". For the younger performer (ages 8-12), from July 10-July 21, there will be Disney's "Aladdin" (a Maryland premiere) and ALL students are guaranteed a part! For more information, go to www.pumpkintheare.com or call 410-828-1645.


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