2018-03-22 / Front Page

Musical highlights the timeless theme of friendship

Community theater to perform ‘Frog and Toad’ this weekend
BY RYAN GIBBS


Jeffrey Gravdahl, left, and Liam Malloy portray the titular characters during a rehearsal Sunday for “A Year with Frog and Toad.” 
PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN Jeffrey Gravdahl, left, and Liam Malloy portray the titular characters during a rehearsal Sunday for “A Year with Frog and Toad.” PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN A musical about two best friends doesn’t sound particularly unorthodox. That’s until you find out they’re amphibians.

The Jamestown Community Theatre’s production of “A Year with Frog and Toad” will run for five shows on four consecutive days starting tonight.

Iris Bohensky, who’s participated with the theater throughout her childhood, is directing the play. She made her stage debut in the 1999 production of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and is now the troupe’s business manager. She said “Frog and Toad” is particularly close to her heart.

“This show has been a real labor of love for me,” she said. “It is one of my all-time favorite shows. The music is fun and catchy, and the story of friendship is truly one of a kind.”


Kaliel Soya, from left, Bella Rocheleau and Alyssa Savage rehearse as singing birds Sunday at the recreation center. Kaliel Soya, from left, Bella Rocheleau and Alyssa Savage rehearse as singing birds Sunday at the recreation center. The musical adaptation is based off the “Frog and Toad” series of children’s books written by Arnold Lobel from the 1970s. Its debut on Broadway in 2003 garnered a Tony Award nomination that year for best musical.

The plot follows the two titular characters after they wake from their spring hibernation. As it follows them through the changing seasons, the friends bake cookies, fly kites, rake leaves and perform musical numbers composed by brothers Willie and Robert Reale.

“They’ve taken all the short stories and tied them all together to create one show,” Bohensky said.

Although Bohensky has a personal attachment to the material, along with its springtime theme, the primary reason “Frog and Toad” was chosen was its generational appeal.


Emilia Cote, left, and Gwen Silvia chat with director Iris Bohensky. 
PHOTOS BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN Emilia Cote, left, and Gwen Silvia chat with director Iris Bohensky. PHOTOS BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN “It is very family friendly,” she said. “For the most part, it matches most of the shows that we do.”

The show’s cast consists of more than two dozen children. Among the remaining four character roles for adults are the two leads: Jeffrey Gravdahl plays Frog and Liam Malloy portrays Toad. The men did not specifically audition for those characters during the January auditions, but they’re pleased they were tapped to lead the show. The two characters are polar opposites, but close friends nonetheless. Malloy describes Toad as overly emotional and occasionally grumpy.

“He would generally prefer to stay home with a cup of tea or some nice warm soup,” he said.

Frog, however, likes to get out out of the house for adventures.

“Frog is the leader of the two,” Gravdahl said. “He is a confident alpha male. His counterpart, Toad, is kind of wishy-washy and a little nervous.”

The men have enjoyed practicing their duets with each other. They’ve also relished rehearsing alongside their younger co-stars. Malloy already knows several of them through the local soccer and softball teams he coaches.

“All of the kids have been great,” he said. “It’s nice to see them in a different atmosphere.”

While Gravdahl has acted in four plays, Malloy, a University of Rhode Island economics professor, became involved in community theater through his daughter, Brenna, who appeared in “Pippin” during the fall production. She was cast as a squirrel; her sister, Maeve, was stage manager.

Along with managing rehearsals, Bohensky has also been supervising the set construction, which has continued into this week. The main sets, such as the interiors and exteriors of Frog’s and Toad’s houses, were built by parents and volunteers.

The two lead actors hope audiences enjoy the fruits of their six weeks of labor. Malloy said the theme of friendship will have an impact on those in attendance. Gravdahl expects the sense of humor to be a hit with families. He said the “fun music and interaction between the characters” is relatable to both 3-year-olds and nonagenarians.

“I hope they smile and laugh a lot,” he said. “It’s a funny play.”

Showtimes are 7 p.m. tonight through Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. All performances are at the recreation center, 41 Conanicus Avenue. Tickets are $12 in advance from Baker’s Pharmacy and The Secret Garden. Admission at the door is $15. There is a $5 discount for students and senior citizens.

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