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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Frog (Daniel Moser, left) asks Toad (Vince Rainelli) if he wants to hear a scary story in “A Year With Frog and Toad,” which opens tonight at Purdue University Fort Wayne.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Valleri Bowman, left, and Jesse Harris play birds in "A Year With Frog and Toad." 

  • Playing birds in “A Year With Frog and Toad” are, from left, Valleri Bowman, Jesse Harris and Brittney Bressler.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Daniel Moser, left, who plays Frog, and Vince Rainelli, who plays Toad in  "A Year With Frog and Toad" at PFW

Friday, September 21, 2018 1:00 am

PFW hops to it with 'Frog and Toad'

If you go

What: “A Year With Frog and Toad”

When: 8 p.m. today and Saturday and Sept. 27, 28 and 29; 2 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Sept. 29

Where: Williams Theatre, Purdue University Fort Wayne, 2101 Coliseum Blvd. E.

Admission: $18 adults; $16 seniors and PFW students, staff and alumni; $14 non-PFW college students; $5 PFW students, high school students and ages 6-17; or 481-6555

Tall plants rise out of a pond and tower above you. There are wood cottages with screened doors that let a breeze blow through as friends take tea and swap stories. Out in the yard, birds point and laugh at a pair of amphibians trying to fly a kite.

It's all normal stuff you'd find if you were living in the grasses on the edge of a pond – at least it is if you're familiar with the Frog and Toad children's books by Arnold Lobel.

Purdue University Fort Wayne's Department of Theatre will bring the books to life in “A Year With Frog and Toad,” which opens tonight and runs through Sept. 29.

The musical follows the cheery Frog and grouchy Toad through their seasons in a collection of vignette-type stories.

Daniel Moser plays Frog, and Vince Rainelli is Toad. Valleri Bowman, Brittney Bressler, Jesse Harris and Hunter Evans play a variety of supporting characters such as Mouse, Turtle and Snail.

Though the characters all have animal names, don't expect bulky mascot-like costumes. The characters are in human form and outfits for the ragtime and jazz musical are inspired by 1920s Vaudeville.

“Frog and Toad” is the first time the department has done a children's show, as far as professor and chair Beverly Redman knows.

Redman, who is directing the production, says it is important to get the community onto campus, especially young people.

“Not just to make our campus marketable, ... but in addition to that, children who have visited college campuses from the time they were young are more likely to feel comfortable,” she says. “Growing up going to colleges for performances, special classes and other events can help prepare young people for when it comes time for them to attend as students.

“We're just hoping that this can contribute to that if we, every couple of years, decide to do a children's show that's about getting elementary-school kids to our campus,” Redman says.

Purdue University Fort Wayne students are learning how a children's show differs from a production geared toward an older audience. There is a “bigness” required to entertain children, and that takes a lot of energy.

To accommodate families, PFW has added extra matinées and the show's runtime is a bit shorter.

Learning the ins and outs of a children's production is another way of preparing the department's students for a varied career in theater. Redman says some graduates help run camps, teach in schools or even work in theme parks.

The sets are a bit different, as well. The orchestra pit has become a pond that will be used by characters to go “swimming,” for example.

Just because “Frog and Toad” is geared toward children doesn't mean it is only for the little ones, though.

“Certainly I think there's plenty for adults to enjoy in it,” Redman says, adding that she hopes adults come out whether they are bringing kids or not.

– Corey McMaken, The Journal Gazette