Talkin’ Broadway: Frogz

Originally published on Talkin’ Broadway.

Children’s theatre that delights and inspires young audiences is a rare treat to be commended. Children’s theatre that also entertains, or better yet, engages adults is even rarer. Frogz, a production by the Imago Theatre currently being presented by the American Repertory Theatre, falls somewhere in between. The show is more an exploration of movement akin to Cirque du Soleil than a legitimate play, featuring a series of unconnected, wordless scenes set to music. Each scene involves actors in elaborate costumes, invoking everything from animals to inanimate objects through the sort of exercises typical to those used in acting classes. For example, the show opens with three frogs staring at the audience for an uncomfortably long time. Then, one frog moves its head in a rather frog-like way, and we are all expected to delight in the veracity of its froggishness. To the production’s credit, the children in the audience giggle and squeal with excitement, although at the performance I attended, the adults remained nonplussed.

While some scenes feel like overblown descendents of skits from The Muppet Show – think dancing accordions and floating, black-lit string creatures – the show does get more interesting as it progresses. A cowboy whose face has been replaced by a contraption that scrolls drawings to tell the story is entertaining, if occasionally a little off-color for children’s theatre. A troupe of sloths have some funny business stacking boxes. Penguins play musical chairs. If it all sounds rather simplistic, well, it is, but there is often charm in simplicity.

The five performers – Rex Jantze, Jonathan Godsey, Kyle Delamarter, Danielle Vermette, and Leah James Abel – all ably throw themselves into the proceedings, squeezing the most fun they can from the material. Carol Triffle and Jerry Mouawad, together credited with creation, design, and direction of the show, have put together a stylish evening, but one can’t help but wish there was a little substance to go with the style.

Imago Theatre’s Frogz, presented by the American Repertory Theatre at the Zero Arrow Street Theatre in Cambridge, now through July 31. Curtain times are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday at 7:30 pm, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm, with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 pm. Ticket prices are $50 for Friday and Saturday evening, and $40 for weeknights and matinees. Kids (under age 15) pay half price. Seniors, students, A.R.T. subscribers and members receive $10 off regular prices. Tickets for all performances can be ordered in advance through the A.R.T. Box Office by calling (617) 547-8300, by mail, or through the Internet at the A.R.T.’s website at Box office hours are noon to curtain time on performance days, noon to 5 p.m. on non-performance days, closed on Mondays.

The A.R.T.’s summer offerings will also include the return of the sold-out centerpiece of the A.R.T.’s recent South African Festival – Pamela Gien’sThe Syringa Tree, directed by Larry Moss, for a limited engagement July 15 – August 7 at the Loeb Drama Center.
Photo: Jerry Mouawad

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