The Wizard of Oz. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Add to that list A Year with Frog and Toad, another one of those rare children's books that gains a whole new level of magic when it's translated to another medium.
The musical, now on stage at the Seattle Children's Theatre, is a loosely connected but relatively faithful adaptation of several stories from Arnold Lobel's classic books. The tales are arranged to follow the seasons, and the stage settings (revamped and updated from the theater's 2004/2005 run) emphasize the passing of time from spring-green leaves to snow falling on evergreen trees. Adding to the enduring quality are the delightful music and catchy lyrics, a faintly ‘50s sweetness and sturdiness, and an emphasis on friendship and trust and the other things that really matter in life. As if that weren't enough, you also get some pretty funny jokes and physical humor.
Among my three kids, my 4-year-old is probably the most appropriate age for the show, and he did watch intently through the stories he knows – raking leaves, growing plants, sledding down a hill. The one scene that can be scary – an encounter with the "Large and Terrible Frog" – is played here mostly for laughs. But even my 9-year-old watched raptly, laughed in delight, and left dancing. The show is advertised as for all ages, but we left the toddler home, knowing she wouldn't make it to the ending time of nearly 9 p.m. (We might have braved a matinee with her, although the running time is one hour and forty-five minutes.)
The show only calls for five actors, some playing several parts, so there's no room for a weak link. SCT's crew played their many parts with more self-awareness and broader yucks than I've seen in some productions, but the kids appreciated every wink and nod. The deeper messages still shine through, and it almost brings tears along with the laughs to see the qualities that everyone needs spoken through the gentle frog and the thorny toad – the loyalty and love and a big dose of hope.
IF YOU GO
WHERE: Charlotte Martin Theatre, 201 Thomas St., Seattle Center.
WHEN: Most Friday evenings; weekend matinees and evenings through Jan. 15, with occasional exceptions and additions. There are daily shows Dec. 26-30.
COST: $20 – $36.
CONTACT: Ticket office 206-441-3322; www.sct.org.
Seattle writer Rebekah Denn, a mother of three, is waiting for spring to be here/and another year.