Frog and Toad

Frog & Toad, together again

Five years later, Oregon Children's Theatre's Drammy-winning hit picks up where it left off, charming audiences young and old again

Oregon Children’s Theatre knows something about what it takes to put on a hit show: the company has been creating magical theater experiences for kids for 30 years. So, no wonder OCT decided to revive its 2013 hit musical A Year with Frog & Toad this year to close OCT’s 30th season.

In 2013 the show won seven Drammy awards, including for outstanding musical. This year’s production could repeat that feat. After all, James Sharinghousen returns as Toad from that original production; the sets and numbers are reminiscent of that 2013 show; and the additions only add to the magic.

Charles Grant and James Sharinghousen in OCT’s “A Year with Frog and Toad.” Photo: Owen Carey

Charles Grant takes over the other title role as Frog— and don’t for a moment think his serious role as Eddie in And in This Corner, Cassius Clay has him typecast. Where he brought emotional weight to the role of Cassius Clay’s best friend in that OCT play from earlier this season, he brings comedy, musical, and dancing talent to the role of Frog. He’s a triple threat, and reveling in it. Grant and Sharinghousen are a perfect pair. I’d be delighted to see them together again: a modern-day Abbot and Costello. They play off each other well, and both excel at physical comedy. The pratfalls are at an all-time high here, especially in the silly sledding number, “Down the Hill.” And the mistaken intentions — secretly raking each other’s leaves only to have the squirrels (Lauren Burton and Katie McClanan) — ruin it so they’ll never know what their friend did.

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DramaWatch: Fences & Frogs

The week on stage features an August Wilson classic, a revival of a children's hit, Salt, Swans, Clowns, labor struggles, Todd Van Voris solo

Portland Playhouse has emerged over the past decade as one of the city’s top theaters for a variety of reasons: energetic young leadership, an invitingly casual atmosphere, and early sponsorship that resulted in free beer.

But you might think of it as The House That August Wilson Built. After all, it was a 2010 production of Wilson’s Radio Golf that first amplified the buzz about the young company beyond theater cognoscenti. Since then the Playhouse has had repeated success with Wilson’s majestic depictions of hardscrabble lives in the predominantly African American Hill District of Pittsburgh.

Lester Purry stars as former baseball hero Troy Maxson in August Wilson’s “Fences.” Portland Playhouse photo

The production of Fences opening this weekend is the seventh of Wilson’s epic century cycle of plays to be staged by Portland Playhouse. The story of an ex-baseball star toiling as a garbage man, it deals with the challenges of identity and self-respect for black people in the 1950s. It’s Wilson’s greatest hit, a Pulitzer and Tony winner (and a Denzel vehicle), so Wilson fans won’t want to miss it, and neither should those who don’t yet know the joy. Much more conventionally structured than his other, more discursively poetic works, this is an ideal introduction to Wilson’s enduring themes and settings.

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