By Devynn Barnes
The holiday season is here, and there is no better way to celebrate than with live entertainment fit for a Broadway stage, right in Carmel. Actors Theatre of Indiana will present “A Year With Frog and Toad,” the Tony-nominated Broadway hit at Studio Theater at The Center for the Performing Arts this month.
“A Year With Frog and Toad” is a musical based upon the children’s books by Arnold Lobel. It premiered in 2002 in Minneapolis and went on to have a successful stint on Broadway, earning three Tony Award nominations in 2003. The story is about two best friends, a frog and a toad. The pair adventures together through the four seasons, laughing and celebrating their friendship all the way. The play ends in the winter during the Christmas season, reminding us all to appreciate the spirit, friendship and warmth that the holidays bring.
Kristen Merritt, the director of marketing and business development at Actors Theatre of Indiana, is excited for this year’s production, sponsored by PNC Bank and underwritten by the Simply Sweet Shoppe. It will be the seventh production of the show in its history with the theatre.
“I love the theme about the show,” Merritt said. “It’s so special in the way it celebrates the differences in people.”
The piece is not a traditional Christmas play; Frog and Toad go through all four of the yearly seasons, and even though the play ends with a Christmas song, the holiday theme is not dominant throughout. What makes the play so relevant during the holiday season, however, are the deeper themes of love and friendship that it presents.
According to the show’s director, Judy Fitzgerald, it only makes sense that the musical runs during the holidays.
“It’s a time when you just are together and every thing seems in place and right… you look at the best in everyone,” Fitzgerald said. I think that this show is really about that.”
She said that the play has a certain magic to it, and an ability to bring joy to its viewers, a lot of which is thanks to its excellent writing and score.
“I can’t imagine anybody seeing this show and not loving it… It is so well written and the music is fantastic,” Fitzgerald said. “You can’t get it out of your head.”
Making this year’s performance even more special is that it will be featuring Kelly Krauter, a Carmel High School graduate, in the role of “Mouse.” Though Krauter is now living in Chicago, she is returning home for the next few weeks for the production of the show. It’s been two years since the last time she did a show in Carmel, and she said she’s happy to return.
“I’m just excited to be in my hometown doing a show and being able to spend time with my family,” she said.
She loves the message of the show as well as its timeliness with the holiday season.
“This show is just a really wonderful culmination of friendship and being around your loved ones and just appreciating every moment you have with people,” she said. “I think that that’s what this season is all about… loving the people around you and people coming together.”
Starring alongside Krauter is an accomplished group of actors, including Bradley Reynolds, an acclaimed Broadway performer hailing from Speedway, Ind., and Don Farrell, who has more than 200 professional production credits, in the roles of Frog and Toad.
The story has effectively jumped from “page to stage,” and will come to life in Carmel from Dec. 12-21. This year, Actors Theatre of Indiana is partnering with the Autism Society of Indiana to present a special sensory-friendly performance Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. Seats will be sold at a discounted price of $10 to families of children with autism and/or other sensory challenges. The lights will be turned up and the sounds will be turned down to make sure that everyone is able to partake in the joy that the show brings.
In the words of director Fitzgerald: “If you want to feel good, and you want to walk out singing, it is that piece.”
The Studio Theater at The Center for the Performing Arts is at 4 Center Green in Carmel. Opening night is Dec. 12 at 7 p.m., and performances run for the following two weekends. The show can be seen Saturdays and Sundays at 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. from Dec. 12 to Dec. 21. Adult tickets are $25 and student tickets are $17.50, and they can be purchased at www.thecenterfortheperformingarts.org/tickets.