21 March 2009

A Year with Frog & Toad (Made Accessible for All)

The Arden Theater, located in Olde City Philadelphia, is roughly 18 days into a 6-week revival run of A Year with Frog & Toad (through 4/19/09). Originally staged at The Arden in 2004, the classic stories by Arnold Lobel come to life brilliantly once again in the nimble hands (and tenor voices) of real-life best friends Jeffrey Coon and Ben Dibble, both veterans of Philly's theater world.

OWTK was in the house on Friday evening, 3/13. Turns out that the performance was a joint venture between The Arden and Art Reach to provide live theater to those who may not normally get to experience and enjoy it. There was close captioning in the margins of the stage, hearing devices available which amplified the performers' microphones, playbills in large print and Braille, and most impressively, two American Sign Language professionals on stage, shadow signing the entire play. For the Bear, who is still eagerly absorbing any and all ASL lessons she can via Signing Time! DVDs and the iPhone Application, it was a revelation. Additionally, the actors themselves learned (or knew) enough sign language to chip in with the ASL communication and also interact with the sign language pros at various times throughout the 90 minute show - a really touching gesture, to weave the signing into the performance itself.

Our initial thoughts, upon learning of the evening's theatrical accoutrements, were slightly negative. We felt that the standard performance, the one we thought we'd be seeing, may be interrupted or altered in some way. We were completely wrong. If anything, the show was enhanced tremendously, even for those in the audience who didn't require special assistance. Simply a beautiful night of theater for one and all.

A Year with Frog and Toad blends together many of Lobel's treasured stories, including "The Garden", "Cookies", "A Swim", "The Letter" (which features some of the funniest moments as Snail reemerges throughout both acts of the play slowly making his way to Toad's house), "Alone", "Down The Hill", "The Kite" and the charming "Christmas Eve". The live orchestra plays through a spirited, playful score that serves the action well. Once we got home, we purchased the Broadway Original Cast recording of A Year With Frog & Toad online. The music is terrific and the Bear is loving her ability to relive and act out the play at home. I cannot recommend enough that you take your kids to see A Year With Frog & Toad at The Arden. It is one of the funniest, most gentle and endearing kid's shows I've ever seen.

Looks like there is another accessible performance of A Year with Frog and Toad on Saturday April 4, 2009 at The Arden!

Check out other upcoming accessible Philly Arts Events, including James and the Giant Peach and The Berentstain Bears!

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