By Lynn Venhaus
Filled with whimsy and good cheer, “A Year with Frog and Toad” is a delightful example of clever staging and accessible theater for multi-ages.

The innovative Fly North Theatricals is presenting this sweet, sentimental show about friendship for free to all who can show their vaccination card and matching ID at the door. No ticket needed but there is limited seating because of social distancing.

The musical continues this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at The Marcelle Theatre in the Grand Center Theatre District.

Colin Healy and Bradley Rohlf, two creatives who founded Fly North Theatricals in 2019, are making sensible, affordable art and have established a Theatre for All initiative as part of their mission.

In this make-believe adventure, they are doing double-duty as the two amphibious leads. Rohlf plays the popular perky Frog while Healy is the grumpy worry-wart Toad as they journey through four seasons.

They are joined in their woodland by a Snail, Turtle, Bird, Mouse, Mole and several other frogs. The young actors playing these characters sing and dance in musical numbers that recall vaudeville and merry make-believe.

The students of Fly North, who take voice and/or dance lessons, are cast members who bring a youthful energy to the production: Claudia Taylor, Trey Perlut, Ella Penico, Aislyn Morrow, Sarah Brown, Aiden Gildehaus and Julie Harris.

Earnestly directed by Alicia Like with a young audience in mind, she keeps the 85-minute show bright and breezy. Music Director Jermaine Manor smoothly kept the focus on entertaining all ages.

Their year begins in the Spring, as they wake from hibernation. They plant gardens. They swim in the Summer, rake leaves in the Fall and go sledding in the Winter.

As the two best friends celebrate their differences that make them unique and special, they learn life lessons along the way. In a non-cloying way, they tackle anxiety and fears – blissfully free of corny cheesy jokes.

The musical, based on the beloved children’s book series by Arnold Lobel, was nominated for three Tony Awards in 2003, including Best Musical. Because of its success, it was heralded as mainstreaming a children’s production as “regular” theater.

An enchanting score by brothers Robert and Willie Real is brought to life by conductor Jeremy Jacobs, also on keyboards, who leads the four -piece band with aplomb. Luke Mankovich is on reeds, Jacob Mreen on bass and Matthew Clark handles percussion.

Choreographers Angela Brandow and Carly Niehaus used a light touch in the peppy numbers to keep the show up-tempo and fun.

Stellar work is evident from light board operator Mason Hagarty and sound board operator Matthew Garrison, with fine lighting and strong sound without any difficulty.

Lauren Perry has designed the simple set with imagination in mind while costumer Sam Hayes mixed 19th and 20th century outfits and included animal accoutrements, like turtle shells, when necessary. Old-timey hats complete Frog’s and Toad’s appearances well.

An appealing romp for those young at heart who see imagination as a wide canvas, “A Year with Frog and Toad” is a good way to ease back into bringing young people to the theater. And watching such a cheerful presentation will make you smile underneath your mask!

To support their “Theatre for All” initiative, find out more: https://www.flynorthmusic.com/theatre-for-all

And/or attend their VIP fundraising brunch on Sunday, Nov. 14. Doors open at 11 a.m., and each ticket comes with one reserved seat for the closing performance of “A Year with Frog and Toad.”

The brunch will include a Breakfast Taco Bar from The Fifth Wheel of the Bailey’s restaurant family, bottomless mimosas and coffee and performances from cast members. The Studio Open House will be at 3617 Grandel Square in St. Louis.

Tickets are available on their website and all proceeds go toward future productions and resources for FNT students. Single tickets are available for a $100 minimum donation.

Part of FNT’s mission of promoting education through performance is to involve the students of its private voice and dance studio on and off stage in every show. This production has students work alongside their teachers to produce something wacky, fun, formative, and memorable. For more information, visit www.flynorththeatricals.com

NOTE: In accordance with the Kranzberg Arts Foundation’s recent COVID policy update, all attendees of “A Year with Frog And Toad” must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a recent negative test conducted less than 72 hours prior for admittance.

In response to continuing COVID-19 restrictions and after extensive discussions with staff leadership and the Board of Trustees, STAGES St. Louis will officially amend the 2021 Mainstage Season.

The mainstage production of A CHORUS LINE as well as the Family Theatre Series production of A YEAR WITH FROG & TOAD are cancelled. STAGES will still celebrate its 35th Anniversary Season and move into the new Kirkwood Performing Arts Center with revised schedules for ALWAYS… PATSY CLINE and JERSEY BOYS,

Subscribers will receive a mailing the week of March 29 containing additional information and confirming these changes. The letter will also lay out all possible ticketing options for A CHORUS LINE.

“When planning for our return to live performances last fall, no one imagined that we would be in this challenging position once again,” said Associate Producer Andrew Kuhlman. “But, like so many others, here we are. And while these decisions have been incredibly difficult, we believe that they have been made with the best interest of our community in mind and we remain steadfastly hopeful.”

ALWAYS… PATSY CLINE and JERSEY BOYS will be performed in the brand new Ross Family Theatre at The Kirkwood Performing Arts Center in Downtown Kirkwood. The adjusted season schedule will be as follows:

  • ALWAYS… PATSY CLINE (August 6 – September 5, 2021)
  • JERSEY BOYS (September 24 – October 24, 2021)

“Our top priority since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the health and safety of our patrons, performers, staff, students, and community,” said Executive Producer Jack Lane. “Despite the challenges of the past year, I cannot imagine a better way to celebrate a return to live theatre than with our 35th Anniversary Season premiering at our new home in The Ross Family Theatre at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center.”

Two-show subscriptions will go on sale beginning May 17, as will subscriber exchanges and subscriber single ticket sales. General public single ticket sales will begin June 1. Any further changes to the 2021 Season will be posted on the STAGES website and shared via email and social media.

For more information, please follow STAGES on Facebook and Instagram or visit the organization’s website.

STAGES St. Louis is the region’s foremost not-for-profit company committed to preserving and advancing the art form of Musical Theatre through excellence in performance and education. In 2021, STAGES celebrates its 35th year of producing Broadway-quality theatre, as well as the grand opening of the new Kirkwood Performing Arts Center.

STAGES Performing Arts Academy is regionally renowned for its innovative and multi-
disciplinary programs that transform lives through immersion in the Musical Theatre arts. Celebrating its 16th year, it is also the only such program in the St. Louis region to be connected to a professional theatre company. Whatever the age or experience level, whether a new or continuing student, aspiring performing artists throughout the St. Louis region have the opportunity to explore and cultivate their talent at STAGES, and set the stage for life changing experiences. For more information or to register today please call 636.449.5775 or visit us online at
www.StagesStLouis.org.

Two-show subscription purchases for the 2021 Season will go on sale on May 17. Single ticket sales begin June 1. For more information, please call 314.821.2407 or visit www.StagesStLouis.org.