By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
Few amphibians have made as big of an impact on childhood storytelling in the last 40 years as Arnold Lobel’s beloved "Frog and Toad," which Grand Canyon University’s College of Fine Arts and Production is bringing to life at Ethington Theatre.
"A Year with Frog and Toad," a musical written by Robert and Willie Reale, follows Lobel’s characters through a year of friendship, laughs and lessons. The pair’s opposite personalities, instead of working against each other, bring out the best between the two and make for a touching story of friendship.
For the Ethington production, playing at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 24, COFAP showcases the directorial vision of Debra K. Stevens in her first production with GCU.
Although the play is based on a series of children’s books, Stevens says it offers something for all ages.
“I am an old-school Childsplay actor, and at our theatre, we treat every audience member with respect,” she said. “The child, the parent, the teacher, the chaperon -- whoever it is -- we come and make sure that there’s something that every person in that audience can enjoy and follow. … I think students are going to enjoy it because a lot of people grew up reading the books, the music is clever, the lyrics are clever, the acting is solid, I think the concepts are fun.
“Everybody has that friend that you grow up with who knows you inside and out. Everybody can relate to that idea of that friend that you are connected to your whole life, and I think that that is a universal theme in this play.”
GCU students have been active throughout the Valley theatre industry, so Stevens has worked with them on multiple occasions. But seeing them in their campus environment has not disappointed.
“The students are very talented, they’re very focused, they work really hard, they have a great work ethic, they come in prepared. … It’s been a great experience for me working with the students,” she said.
Brandon Brown, who plays Toad, said working with Stevens has been memorable for students as well.
“Working with our guest director has been wonderful in helping us evolve our characters and find the funny in the show,” Brown said. “It’s been a really fun experience.”
For McKenna Kollman, who portrays both Bird and Mole, the musical brings back a childhood memory.
“My dad was a fan of them, and we would read them together when I was a kid before bed,” Kollman said.
She also has learned valuable lessons from the pair’s adventures. One of her biggest takeaways: “To have fun and to remember all the little moments in a year.”
Alexander Cavanaugh, who plays Frog, remembers reading the books. Those stories flooded back to him when he started play rehearsals.
“It’s really weird. It’s a lot like how ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ was for me last year because I read the book that that play is based off of,” Cavanaugh said. “It’s weird to play a character that you already know.”
Aside from the nostalgia, Cavanaugh said the production is one viewers won’t want to miss.
“The cast is phenomenal -- I mean, not a weak voice in the cast. Everyone is absolutely great, and it’s super fun and super sweet,” Cavanaugh said.
IF YOU GO
What: “A Year with Frog and Toad” by Robert and Willie Reale. Based on the books by Arnold Lobel.
When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 24
Where: Ethington Theatre
Tickets: $12 admission. Discounted tickets for senior citizens, military personnel, GCU and GCE employees, GCU alumni, children 12 years old and younger, and GCU students.
Information: 602-639-8800 or [email protected]
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected]
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