Having never read (or even heard of… I know, what rock have I lived under!) the beloved stories of Arnold Lobel, I didn’t quite know what to expect when I arrived at Barksdale Theatre on Sunday afternoon (Oh yeah, I’d never been to the Barksdale either…yes, the rock was a large one). I was immediately struck by the size of the theatre – small! In a great way! I have since learned that the wonderfully intimate setup is what’s called in the industry a thrust stage – one that extends into the audience on three sides and is connected to the backstage area by its upstage end. As the performers took the stage, the children and grown-ups alike were mesmerized by the up-close and personal story that played out right in front of their seats.
The setting and costumes were wonderfully simple and smartly executed, with just 5 amazing cast members bringing us along on this woodland adventure. My 5 year-old son couldn’t decide if he liked Frog or Toad better, and by the end of our discussion, we deemed it a tie – they were both fabulously lovable. He decided his favorite part was when the snail shed his shell – “that snail was a hoot!”, he proclaimed! The two female cast members portrayed everything from birds to turtles to moles and mice, and sometimes changed so quickly, I couldn’t figure out how they made it happen (theater magic). All 5 actors are wildly talented singers, dancers, and actors, and I must say, this is the first time I’ve seen a man tap dance in duck boots!
Hopping along with these amphibian best buddies throughout the course of a year teaches the audience all about friendship, trust, being a good person, and supporting those we love. At about 95 minutes with an intermission (and you MUST get cake pops during the break – they are to die for!), the kids in the audience, who looked to be from 3-10, never had a chance to get antsy, as the production moved swiftly and cheerily from scene to scene and alternated clever dialog with even more clever songs.
Here until December 31st, this is a must-see for Richmond families – you’ll thank me for demanding you go! Now, back under my rock I must go…http://www.theatreivrichmond.org/ for tickets.