published Friday, February 25th, 2011

Friendship, warts and all

Frog and Toad are friends.

That's the title of the first book of the "Frog and Toad" series, published from 1970 to 1979 by Arnold Lobel, and that last word -- friends -- is key.

"It's a story about these two friends and what they go through," said Maria Chattin-Carter, who is directing "A Year With Frog and Toad," the musical adaptation of Lobel's books, for the Youth Theatre at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre.

"A Year With Frog and Toad" was adapted by actor Mark Linn-Baker (TV's "Perfect Strangers"), husband of Lobel's daughter Adrianne. The show ran on Broadway for two months in 2003. Despite the short run, "A Year With Frog and Toad" received three Tony Award nominations, including for Best Musical.

Chattin-Carter said she decided to direct "Frog and Toad" after listening to some of the musical selections by Robert and Willie Reale.

"I thought they were upbeat songs. It's fun to listen to. It's fun to watch," she said. "And [with] the books being so popular with the younger kids, it's stories I think they would have fun seeing brought to life."

Although the original Broadway cast featured adults in the roles, this production is "by youth, for youth," with cast members ranging in age from 9 to 17. The intended audience is preschool through fifth grade.

"The way we pick stories for the Youth Theatre is from a youth perspective," Chattin-Carter said. "Frog and Toad are kind of like an adolescent friendship. And we go from there."

The story is a bit of an opposites-attract one. Frog looks on the bright side, while Toad is more of a pessimist. The two friends are able to balance each other.

Chattin-Carter said she believes audiences will be able to take a lesson about friendship from the main characters.

"Friendship is a two-way street," she said. "It's not just one person being the friend all the time, because [the characters] work together."

IF YOU GO

* What: "A Year With Frog and Toad."

* When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays, 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through March 13.

* Where: Chattanooga Theatre Centre, 400 River St.

* Admission: $8 Fridays, $10 Saturdays and Sundays.

* Phone: 267-8538.

* Website: www.theatrecentre.com

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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