If you're going to pick just one children's production this season to attend, it should be "A Year with Frog & Toad" at the Chicago Children's Theatre.
It's not just the live band, the delightful characters or the fun, shabby chic set and costumes that make the timeless Arnold Lobel books jump to life. It's every little detail that was thoughtfully directed by Henry Godinez to make this production into a fairytale for children and into delightfully funny and eccentric show for adults.
The story, which starts in the spring and takes us through the winter, reminds us of what a true friendship between two besties (or in this case, between a frog and a toad) should be. The live band keeps the energy going through this 70-minute, no-intermission show.
It really shows the ups and downs of a friendship, while explaining the migration of birds, the speed of snails and other basic ways of life. It's a true classic.
The toad, played by Mark David Kaplan, stole the show with his Woody Allen characteristics, and he gelled perfectly with his frog counterpart, played by Karl Hamilton.
Also, surprisingly hysterical was the snail/ mailman, played by Shawn Pfautsch. We could keep singing the praises of each individual person who contributed to the show, but the real judges are the tiniest audience members - who loved it.
We took our 4-year-old and 2-year-old, and they didn't budge until the very end. In fact, though the show is recommended for 4-year-olds and up, many of the theatergoers were children who appeared to be younger - and they all did fine (though the band may have masked some squirmier kids).
There was an option for some children to sit on the side of the stage, but I don't recommend doing that. Though sitting on the stage seems exciting, those seats are more on the side than on the center of the stage - and the kids would actually have a better view of the show from the regular seats than the stage seats.
Danielle Braff lives with her two daughters and husband in downtown Chicago.
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