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  • Karyn Ashby

Spring with Frog and Toad at the Chicago Children's Theatre

I had the great pleasure of taking my cousin’s 3-year-old son to see “ A Year with Frog and

Toad” at the Chicago Children’s Theatre. I witnessed a show within a show, watching

both the play and my companion’s reactions to it. The show held his attention through

its 70 minute run time - no small feat at such an active age. Initially he watched the

scenes, exuberantly clapping after each one, but as the show progressed he also

noticed its mechanics. He watched one side of the stage being reset while the action

commenced on the other side of the stage. He paid attention to props arriving and

leaving, and was particularly captivated by leaves being scattered onstage and then

raked off as the scene ended.

The books that “Frog and Toad” is based on are sweetly comical tales about

friendship. They demonstrate being thoughtful and caring, accepting someone’s

idiosyncrasies, and navigating feelings. There is plenty of wit and situational humor for

adults to enjoy as well as children. The pinnacle of comedy was when my companion

leaned over to me and proclaimed, “Frog just threw a snowball at Toad’s butt!”

The lead actors, Eduardo Curley-Carillo and Nick Druzbanski, had excellent

comedic timing and characterization, and I wanted to literally shout out to the three

supporting actors, Leslie Ann Shepherd, Diego Vasquez Gomez, and Laura Murillo

Hart, who played multiple animal characters throughout the show. They were perfectly

cast. Their voices, harmonies, energy level, and ensemble work created beautiful

cohesion. I also loved the innovative simplicity of the props: sequined blue fabric laid on

the floor became water when Frog and Toad each wore them like barrel dresses,

painted umbrellas became scary eyes of “the large and terrible frog,” and simply draped

white fabric became the hill that Frog and Toad sled down. Good theater involves a

sprinkling of magic, which was well-evident in this production, and I loved sharing that

experience with a little human.

The theater’s stage is a small space with cushioned couch-style seating set up in

the round with sets on either side (Frog and Toad’s bedrooms). The chatter of children

is part of the experience, with one child announcing more than once during the show

that he was quite hungry (so perhaps the 9:30am showing might be preferable to the

11:30am showing). There are coloring pages and crayons available on tables in the

lobby before the show, and cookies and books for sale afterwards. Fun facts: “Frog and

Toad” was the first professional children’s theatrical show to run on Broadway, it was

nominated for three Tony Awards, author Arnold Lobel’s daughter Adrianne Lobel

commissioned the play and designed the sets, and her husband Mark Linn-Baker

helped adapt the script and played Toad in the show’s Broadway debut.

"A Year with Frog and Toad" is playing Saturdays and Sundays through June 9, 2024 at the Chicago Children's Theatre, 100 South Racine, Chicago. There are weekday shows for school bookings too! For tickets and information go to

Photo by Liz Lauren

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