Arts & entertainment

A year in the life of two amphibious friends

Classic stories come to life at Arvada Center

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The story of "A Year With Frog and Toad" is a simple one — a glimpse at four seasons with two best friends. There are some laughs along the way, a few adventures to be had, and good times for all.

And those good times applies to the characters and audiences alike.

Based on the classic Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel, the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., is hosting the children's production through May 20. Performances are at 10 a.m. and noon, Tuesday through Friday, and 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturday.

"The audiences are literally watching some of their favorite stories come to life," said Matt LaFontaine, who plays Toad. "These books are so well known that usually by a few lines in, the kids know what's coming."

In addition to Frog and Toad, audiences also get to meet other woodland creatures like Lizard, Snail, Turtle, and some wise birds during the course of a year. This gives children an opportunity to learn a little about each species and the seasons, while grooving along to some wonderfully catchy song and dance number, courtesy of musical director Keith Ewer, and choreographer Piper Arpan.

"We've been studying the seasons in class, so this is a perfect tie in," said Polly Davis, a second grade teacher at Westridge Elementary in Littleton, who saw the play with students on Feb. 10. "Part of our reading curriculum is focused on character development, so they're able to see how that works in the show."

Many of the performances include an interactive tech-talk, where the actors give students a window into what life on the stage is like, including set and costume design. And according to LaFontaine, and Brandon Bill, who plays Frog, just exposing children to theater can change their lives.

"Being an educator, I know how meaningful the first experience at the theater can be," Bill said. "Seeing the theater can bring a new passion, and once they see how it works, they realize it's something they could do."

One of the best things about the "A Year With Frog and Toad" is that it never condescends to its audience, nor does it get heavy-handed with any kind of message. Instead, it focuses on the power of friendship to help build a family.

"It's all about friendship and appreciating that," LaFontaine said.

"No matter what, your friends are going to be there, unconditionally," Bill added.

For more information, call 720-898-7200 or visit www.arvadacenter.org.

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