In the four years since its beginning, Olympia Family Theater has grown much like a child, shooting up just after you buy new school clothes.
It’s fitting then that the theater’s fifth season begins with a bigger production of “A Year With Frog and Toad,” the musical from the theater’s first season.
The musical, based on the beloved books by Arnold Lobel, follows the adventures of the slightly mismatched amphibians, one clever and perhaps just a bit of a smart aleck, and the other dull but ever loyal.
“There are little bits where Frog is egging Toad on,” said director Jenny Greenlee. “You could read it that way, or you could read it another way. We’ve added some bits where Frog is purposely annoying Toad, and I think older kids will clue into those jokes, and adults will clue into them.”
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In other words, although the show is based on bedtime stories for young ones, the show’s appeal is broader.
“A lot of adults that I’ve talked to said, ‘That was my favorite book as a kid,’ and they’ve now read it to their kids or other kids they know, so that appeals to a lot of people. The musical score is really fantastic,” Greenlee said. “The music gets stuck in your head. I think anybody who likes musicals will really appreciate that part of it. The songs are really well written.”
“It had a run on Broadway,” said Josh Anderson, the production’s musical director. “It’s an excellent example of very high quality musical theater written specifically for the family audience.”
It’s a fast-paced show, Greenlee said. The show only lasts about an hour and 15 minutes, and there are a lot of big group numbers. The show has double the cast it did last time OFT produced it, and it’s got a bigger band, too.
“It’s a bigger cast and a different cast, a bigger band, a bigger set,” said Jen Ryle, the theater’s artistic director. “It’s a different show.”
The original production sold out quickly, she said. “We got a lot of feedback after ‘Frog and Toad’ that a lot of people weren’t able to see it. It sold out very quickly and we didn’t do many performances because we were just starting out.”
That has continued to be an issue of concern, and this year, the company has moved most of its shows from the Black Box at the Minnaert Center for the Arts at South Puget Sound Community College to the larger Black Box at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts.
In the past, Olympia Family Theater has offered a musical later in the season, but this season, there’ll be two — “Frog and Toad” to kick things off and “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” in April.
“With our move to the Washington Center, we wanted to open with a big bang to let people know we were here,” Ryle said.