PAGOSA SPRINGS Frog and Toad are so silly, Lucy said.
Lucy is the precocious blonde 4-year-old sitting behind me at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts. We have just returned from intermission, and A Year with Frog and Toad has resumed.
A pair of brothers in the front row have giggled ecstatically throughout the production. No one has squirmed in their seats or left crying. The children love the show. So do the adults. The laughter and smiles are genuine. The production has stolen their hearts. If only for an hour and a half, we have all returned momentarily to the joys of childhood and the meaning of friendship.
A Year with Frog and Toad is a musical written by brothers Robert and Willie Reale, based on Arnold Lobels Frog and Toad childrens stories. Toad is played by Tim Moore, who co-directs the production with fellow actor and Frog Robin Hebert. Moore and his wife, Laura, founded and run Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts.
They do it all, Laura serving as stage manager for this show, controlling the lights, sounds and musical tracks. Both are seasoned actors who performed extensively across the Denver metro area.
The play opens with the birds returning from their winter migration. Played by local actors Brooke Hampton, Ami Harbison and Anna Hershey, the songbirds have beautiful, lilting harmony, their voices blending together like the Andrews Sisters. The three fill out the ensemble playing a trio of birds, a snail, a turtle, a mouse, a lizard, a pair of squirrels, some moles and a family of frogs.
Frog awakens from his hibernation and tries to wake up Toad, who proceeds to break his alarm clock and throughout the production doesnt know what time it is. Its a good metaphor.
When one enters the theater, the goal is to get lost in the story, the characters and music. But thats also a metaphor for patience.
Im quite sure that soon is over and now it is much later, Toad says as he waits for his flower seeds to grow and becomes impatient.
Toad is a bit neurotic and sort of a Woody Allen-type character. He worries a lot. Never receives mail and is embarrassed to be seen in his bathing suit. When his friend Frog leaves him a note that he has gone to the island to be alone, Toad worries that Frog is sad or mad and does not want to be with him.
Once again, Thingamajig Theatre Company has put together a professional theatrical production that has surprised and awed an audience of locals and tourists on this night.
Thingamajig borrowed the costumes for this production from the Arvada Center, which feature a 1940s theme complete with pleated skirts, plaid jackets and striped trousers. Frog and Toad are styled like fashionable golfers with their flat caps, knickers and stockings.
The bird suits are cuffed and collared with feathers, and they wear leather pilot skull caps and goggles. The soundtrack is also from the era. Its subtle, but tunes by Louis Armstrong sets the mood before the lights dim.
This production is for everyone. Its family friendly, but dont dismiss it because you think it my be child-focused. Its not. The music is nostalgic, the harmonies are delightful and the show provides an evening of childlike joy.
If you bring the kids, get there early, enjoy the music, refreshments and local art exhibit, and be sure to grab those front-row seats for a special surprise that will make young and old alike feel as if they are part of the production.
Leanne Goebel is a freelance writer and member of the International Association of Art Critics. Reach her at [email protected]