James Sharinghousen

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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Portland Mini Musical Festival review: brief encounters

Fertile Ground Festival musical showcases benefit from focus on relationships

It’s hard enough to produce believable character relationships in a full length musical, what with the characters breaking into song and dance in the midst of their encounters. Yet even in under 15 minutes each, most of the six short works in this year’s edition of the Portland Mini Musical Festival at downtown Portland’s Brunish theater managed that difficult trick, mostly by focusing on a single relationship each.

Raimer and Carver in ‘Work Friends.’ Photo: David Kinder.

Work Friends, the most thoroughly successful of the lot, showed how even in just a few minutes, deftly drawn characters can evoke real sympathy — all while singing and dancing. Aubrey Jessen’s touching and hilarious office bromance earned genuine guffaws for its beautifully blocked cubicle dance, Jessen and composer Mont Chris Hubbard’s uproarious lyrics, and a winning, multifaceted (singing/dancing/acting) performance by Collin Carver. Kurt Raimer and Courtney Freed also excelled. An office worker longs for a closer connection to his charismatic but oblivious office mate, but doesn’t know how to make it happen— until an eavesdropping colleague stages a welcome intervention.

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