Thursday, October 17, 2013

Review of A Year with Frog and Toad at Chicago Children's Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called A Year with Frog and Toad. It was about Frog (Karl Hamilton) and Toad (Mark David Kaplan) who are two very good friends and all their other friends and what they like to do and the adventures they have together. It was directed by Henry Godinez and it was based on the books by Arnold Lobel and it was adapted by Willie Reale and Robert Reale. I wondered if they were brothers, so I looked it up. They are! It was good for brothers to write this because Frog and Toad are kind of like brothers because they are always together, they love each other, and they never really will not be friends. I really liked this show because they didn't add a bunch of stuff that wasn't in the books. They mostly stuck to the stories. There's no singing in the books, but that just made it better. Frog and Toad were still lovable even though they were actually humans. All the actors really brought the characters that were in the book to life.

I really thought that the man who played Toad was really like Toad. Mom and I are also like Toad, because we are cranky but we are also laughable. When I was little, and even now, I liked the moment in the book when Toad wakes up and says, "Blah." They put this in the show, so I was very happy! It tells us that he is a pessimist and he likes to say blah, and also that he will be a very funny character throughout the rest of the play. And Frog, also in that scene, is tearing off all these pages from the calendar because one of the winter pages was still on top. That tells you that Frog is kind of ornery but also very sweet because he ripped off the first month of spring page and then it was May (but it wasn't really May, just his calendar said May) so then Toad would wake up. Toad was his friend and he wanted to go out in the spring with him; he wants to be with his friend all the time. That is the thing that is really sweet, but the thing that was ornery was that he said "It is May now!" even though it wasn't actually May.

One of my favorite characters was Snail (Shawn Pfautsch) who wanted to be super awesome and famous and fast. And he wanted to be a mailman. So Toad was feeling sad that he was not getting any mail, and then Frog wrote him a note so that he would feel better and sent it with Snail. And then Snail was being very slow, as snails do, but the thing is he was singing this song that went, "I'm the snail with the mail. I deliver without fail." And it took him a whole year to get over and give it to Toad! My favorite part was when it was winter and he was going under the snow. But the funniest was the movements which were paired with the lyrics, which were: "I'm going to go a little faster now." And then he would start going like he was about to run really fast, but then he actually went really slow. I thought that was a great idea to have that at different random points because it was so unexpected to just put the snail there in the snow! I thought it was fuhlarious; other people were laughing so I thought it was really funny for other people as well as me.

I really liked "Cookies" because it is my favorite story in all of the books and it was perfect! It was perfect because there weren't very many things that were different except for the song and that made it funnier and cooler and the dance moves (by Tommy Rapley) just worked perfectly. I thought the woman who played Mouse (Christine Bunuan) was really funny because she kept asking, "What time is it?" and Toad kept saying to everybody, "My clock is broken." Everybody already knew his clock was broken; he broke it with his shoe in the beginning. I really liked the "Cookies" song because at the end they did this great movement where they threw all the cookies up in the air. The "Cookies" story is about will power, but we don't really know if the author is saying that you should have will power our you shouldn't have will power. He might think you shouldn't have will power because he loves cookies! And maybe he was eating cookies when he wrote the story. The story makes you want cookies! I agree with the second one: EAT COOKIES!!!!!

"Toad Looks Funny in a Bathing Suit" was a really awesome song. I liked it because the bathing suit that Toad wore was actually pretty funny and I thought it was a really good idea to have a giant blanket to be the water and little holes for them to pop out of. I thought that that was a great idea that the scene designer Geoffrey Curley had to make the water but also the snow a big blanket. The song I thought was very catchy and very awesome. And Turtle (Brittani Arlandis Green) sang the song and she was amazing. It has a lesson, which is that it is okay if you are funny. Being funny is a good thing, not a bad thing! Try to find some way you can be funny, even if you don't think you are the funniest thing like some people do. You should have some sympathy for Toad because he doesn't want people to see him but they are still looking. He finds out that he doesn't have to take himself so seriously and he doesn't have to be angry at people just because they think he's funny.

People who would like this show are people who like amphibian friends, catapulting cookies, and very "fast" snails. I think this show should be for ages 2 and up because it is a really fun play for even littler kids because they will get the jokes and these books are books everyone should know. I felt, while I was watching the show, like I was really with Frog and Toad. And when it ended I was sad that it ended. I loved this show!

Photos: Charles Osgood

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Review of Once (Broadway in Chicago at Oriental Theatre)

Once upon a time I went to show, and it was called Once. It was directed by John Tiffany. It was about a girl named Girl (Dani de Waal) and guy named Guy (Stuart Ward) and they fell in love because of music. The guy used to be a street performer and Girl really liked his music. So Girl said that she wanted him to fix her vacuum cleaner. So she took him to a music shop where she told Guy she played piano. It is about how music can make people love and how you should just play music and music shouldn't be a chore. It is called Once because not everything turns out that great, but once upon a time these two people once were in love. The people who wrote the musical (Enda Walsh, John Carney, Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová) think that Girl and Guy's relationship was good for that time and they are happy that they at least got that time to be in love.

When you walk into the theatre you see a bunch of people on stage playing music. Even before the show is starting, the actors are playing music. And there were a lot of people from the audience who were on stage hearing them playing. That told me that it was going to be kind of interactive, but I was wrong. Girl came through the audience for her first entrance, but mostly everybody was in the world of the play. I wish that everybody in the audience could have fit on stage. It seems like a play that is small for a big theatre. I think that the set (designed by Bob Crowley) did help make you feel like you were in a smaller theatre. It felt very comfortable and it was also very cool because you could see the actors from all angles no matter where you were because there were mirrors all over the stage.

One of my favorite songs was "Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy." It was a really funny song and it was about how Guy was in love with Girl but he couldn't marry her. He was also kind of being mean to himself because he was saying, "I haven't done much with my life but I just have to keep on living." That part isn't funny, but the song is really funny because it is so ridiculous. It was also how he played it and sung it. He kept changing moods: sometimes he was a cowboy; sometimes he was a rock man. Sometimes he sang very high; sometimes he sang very low. And sometimes he was just all over the place.

Here is some stuff that I thought wasn't really needed in the play. The first thing is that the dancing I thought was kind of unnecessary. I thought that it wasn't really needed because the dancing was so rare that it just felt unnatural. Dance is about expressing your feelings through movement, but I thought they were expressing themselves enough in other kinds of ways, in acting and singing and playing music. The story is not about dancing; it is about music and how music can bring together so many relationships.

There was a scene I also thought they could have changed. It was the scene when they first met the banker. I thought that it seemed like what would happen if you just turned on Disney channel. It was like something that would "pretend happen" everyday. It was not something that would happen in real life, and this is supposed to be a realistic play, so that didn't work well. The play is not cheesy and you don't know what is going to happen every single second, but in this scene you just knew. I loved the banker character (Benjamin Magnuson) and thought it was a good choice to make him the music shop owner's (Evan Harrington's) enemy. At the end they became friends, and their fights were usually funny. One of the things I really liked about the music shop owner was how funny he was when he was trying to get Guy to get his hands of his "girlfriend." He was doing really weird karate moves.

I thought it was really nice how Girl lived with all of her friends and her family. She has kind of broken up with her husband, but her daughter (Kolette Tetlow) and and her mother (Donna Garner) are with her. Her friends are going to help in the band. Andrej (Alex Nee) represents how sometimes something can go bad, like not getting a promotion, but that playing music can help you cure your sadness. It is kind of sexist because there are no girls in the band except Girl, and after they record Eamon (John Steven Gardner) says "Good job, boys!" Réza (Claire Wellin) should be in the band, but she isn't. She can play violin and she can sing prettily and rockingly! But she is just cast away; her job is to seduce the weird karate guy. But I wanted her to be with them and doing the band.

I really liked when Švec (Matt DeAngelis), who is the friend of the Girl who lives with her, gets really hopped up on coffee when they are at the recording studio. I liked that because it was really funny because he talked about how he needed to go to a coffee shop and was jumping all over the place. That didn't make me think, "Oh, they're going to have the best recording session ever." But how it actually turned out was that they actually made great music, but he just was very loud.

They do "Falling Slowly," which is the main song, at the very end and it is very sad because they will probably never get to see each other again. Everybody was playing it so it was really nice; it made a great closing number. It is not just about sadness; it is about music and being happy when you are playing music. It makes you feel like they should be together because they love each other so much. You are glad that they are in love because they seem like a good match for each other because they both love music and they learn from each other. They have some fun together and they want to help each other.

People who would like this show are people who like music, romance, and hoovers. I think this show should be for ages 8 and up because there is some stuff that you might have to talk over if they were younger, and seven and six year olds don't really like romance. People should go see this show because it is funny but also sad and very musical. The music is really good; it is very beautiful music and it seems like they are singing what they actually feel.

Photos: Joan Marcus