Friday, September 22, 2017

OPENING: A Year With Frog & Toad Kicks Off Chicago Children's Theatre's Twelfth Season

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“Even jaded older folks may find themselves thinking with gratitude about the companions that have seen them through many seasons of life.” – Chicago Tribune

Matthew C. Yee (on guitar) plays Frog and Andy Nagraj plays Toad in Chicago Children's Theatre's A Year with Frog and Toad. 
All production photos by Charles Osgood

Limited engagement through October 29, 2017
Based on the books by Arnold Lobel
Book and Lyrics by Willie Reale
Music by Robert Reale
Directed and Choreographed by Stuart Carden
Music Direction and Musical Reductions by Andra Velis Simon

A musical for the whole family!

A Year With Frog & Toad will always hold a special place in our hearts as it was the first show Chicago Children's Theatre performed, and the first professional theatre production my kids ever saw at the ripe old ages of 3 and 5. This was way back in 2006, when my teens were toddlers, and they still loved the CCT 2013 remount at ages 10 & 12. That's saying something! This show is timeless fun for "kids" of all ages.

A Year with Frog and Toad is the Tony-nominated musical based on Arnold Lobel’s beloved Frog and Toad books. Lobel’s well-loved animal characters jump from the page to the stage in this whimsical musical that follows two best friends – the cheerful, popular Frog and the rather grumpy Toad – through four, fun-filled seasons. Part vaudeville, part make believe, all charm, A Year with Frog and Toad tells the story of a friendship that endures, weathering all seasons.

Acclaimed Chicago director Stuart Carden and music director Andra Velis Simon are creating a highly entertaining, all-new production of the Tony-nominated musical based on Arnold Lobel’s beloved Frog and Toad book series.

Join two best friends – cheerful Frog and grumpy Toad – on a trip through spring, winter, summer and fall filled with adventure, for a joyful, all-ages musical about a friendship that endures all seasons, despite their differences.

A multi-talented cast of Chicago actor-musicians - led by Andy Nagraj as Toad and Matthew C. Yee as Frog - will not only recreate Lobel’s delight stories on stage, but also play a variety of musical instruments on every song.

CCT’s twelfth season opens with a brand new take on A Year with Frog and Toad, the all-ages show that successfully launched the company in 2006 at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre. Acclaimed Chicago director Stuart Carden will direct and choreograph CCT’s all-new, reimagined production of the Tony-nominated musical based on children’s author and illustrator Arnold Lobel’s beloved Frog and Toad books. A multi-talented cast of actor-musicians will not only share Lobel’s beloved stories but also play a variety of instruments on every song. Andra Velis Simon is music director.

Lobel's beloved amphibians hop from the page to the stage in this heartwarming musical that follows two best friends – the cheerful, popular Frog and the rather grumpy Toad – through four fun-filled seasons. Waking from hibernation in the spring, Frog and Toad go swimming, rake leaves, go sledding and learn life lessons, celebrating their differences that make them unique and special. Full of joy and energy, top musical numbers include “Cookies,” “Getta Loada Toad,” “I’m Coming Out of My Shell” and “Merry Almost Christmas.” Part vaudeville, part make believe, all charm, A Year With Frog and Toad tells the story of a friendship that endures, weathering all seasons.

Performances are September 19-October 29, 2017 in the new, 149-seat Pritzker Family Studio Theatre at Chicago Children’s Theatre, The Station, 100 S. Racine Ave., Chicago. Performance times are Tuesday through Friday at 10 a.m., Saturday at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., and Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

Savvy, culturally inclined families know they can save lots of money with a variety of Chicago Children’s Theatre 2017-18 multi-show Subscription Packages, now on sale at or by calling (872) 222-9555. Choose between pre-built packages or a Choose Your Own package for maximum flexibility. Younger Audience Fixed Packages, recommended for ages 2 to 6, include A Year with Frog and Toad, plus The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party and My Wonderful Birthday Suit! Older Audience Fixed Packages, recommended for ages 6 and up, include A Year with Frog and Toad, along with An Epic Tale of Scale and Last Stop on Market Street.

Fixed Packages are $100. Benefits of subscription packages include flexible ticketing exchange, a 10% discount and no processing fees on additional tickets, and discounts on CCT classes and camps.

Single tickets to A Year with Frog and Toad are $33, and are on sale now at or by calling (872) 222-9555.

CCT also offers deeply discounted group rates, as low as $10 per ticket, for schools, playgroups, birthday parties and scouting groups. CPS schools may be eligible for financial assistance. Email or call (872) 222-9555 to learn more.

More about CCT’s new production of A Year with Frog and Toad

A diverse and talented cast of professional Chicago actors will play Frog, Toad and all of their animal friends.

Audiences will recall Matthew C. Yee (Frog) from his memorable turns as the father in last season’s world premiere The Year I Didn’t Go To School: A Homemade Circus and as The Mad Hatter in CCT’s 2015 smash hit musical Wonderland: Alice’s Rock and Roll Adventure.

Making his CCT debut is Andy Nagraj (Toad), a frequent performer at Court, Writer’s, Northlight, Silk Road Rising and TimeLine Theatre.

Shawn Pfautsch, a founding member of The House Theatre of Chicago where his credits include Death and Harry Houdini and the title role in Cyrano, reprises the role of Snail following his unforgettable performance in CCT’s 2013 remount of A Year with Frog and Toad.

Also making their Chicago Children’s Theatre debuts are Lauren Vogel (Bird #1, Mouse, others), who has performed regionally and in Chicago at The Hypocrites, A Red Orchid and TrapDoor Theatre and Jazelle Morris (Bird #2, Turtle, others), who has performed at Steppenwolf and Black Ensemble Theater.
The production team includes John Musial (scenic design), Rachel Healy (costume design), Lee Fiskness (light design), Ellie Terrell (prop design) and Ari Clouse (stage manager).

“A child of the 1970s, I grew up with the Frog and Toad stories when they were first published. My mother shared these delightful, thoughtful and funny stories with me at an age when I was just starting to make friends and figuring out what it meant to be a friend,” said Stuart Carden. “Now, with twin five-year-olds I am so happy to reconnect with Arnold Lobel's timeless stories and share them with a whole new generation of kids. Our production will be a wonderfully immersive experience for audiences as the theater will be wrapped in the vibrant natural world illustrated in the book, allowing children and adults alike to feel as if they've stepped into the meadows and forests of Frog and Toad's world. Also new, the superb music director Andra Velis Simon is customizing the infectious Dixie-land jazz score for this production and will lead our cast of actor-musicians as they play music on every song."

Carden returns to Chicago Children’s Theatre where he directed The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and the world premiere musical Frederick. Carden works around the country directing and producing theater including five seasons at Writers Theatre in Chicago and two seasons at City Theatre in Pittsburgh as associate artistic director. Notable directing projects include: PigPen Theatre Co.’s new folk musicals The Hunter and the Bear (Writers Theatre) and The Old Man and The Old Moon (The Old Globe, ArtsEmerson, New Victory Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Writers Theatre), Marco Ramirez's The Royale at City Theatre and The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Nina Raine's Tribes in a co-production with Philadelphia Theatre Company and City Theatre Company; US premiere of David Greig's Yellow Moon, Randall Colburn's Hesperia, and Giles Havergal's adaptation of the Graham Greene novel Travels with My Aunt at Writers Theatre; Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation, Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room, Curt Columbus and Marilyn Campbell’s adaptation of Crime and Punishment, and Martin McDonagh’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis; David Harrower’s Blackbird, Stephen Massicottes’ Mary's Wedding, Jeffrey Hatcher’s A Picasso and Tristine Schyler’s The Moonlight Room at City Theatre; Shishir Kurup’s The Merchant on Venice, David Henry Hwang’s Golden Child, and the premieres of Yussef el Guindi’s Back of the Throat and 10 Acrobats in an Amazing Leap of Faith at Silk Road Rising; and Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman, US premiere of Martin Crimp’s adaptation of The False Servant, and Marie Jones’ Stones in his Pockets for Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre. Carden lives in Oak Park with his wife, contemporary art curator Neysa Page-Lieberman and their twins Dashiell and Griffin. He is an alum of Carnegie Mellon University's M.F.A. Directing program and a member of SDC.   

Andra Velis-Simon is a music director, adapter/arranger, vocal coach and pianist based in Chicago. Regionally, her work has been seen at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, A.R.T. in Cambridge, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Berkeley Rep, Olney Theatre Center in Maryland, and Three Oaks in Michigan. In Chicago: The Goodman (The Iceman Cometh and Camino Real); Porchlight (On a Clear Day You Can See Forever); Theater Wit (Mr. Burns: a post-electric play and 10 out of 12); Chicago Children’s Theatre (The Hundred Dresses, A Year with Frog and Toad and Goodnight Moon); The Hypocrites (Cinderella at the Theater of Potatoes, American Idiot, Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado, and HMS Pinafore); and many others. Velis-Simon is the Resident Music Director for Firebrand Theatre, and an adjunct faculty member at Columbia College Chicago, where she has taught musical theater performance courses since 2008. 

More about Frog and Toad, the book series and the musical
Frog and Toad are the main characters in a series of easy-reader books written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel in the 1970s. Each book contained five simple, humorous, often poignant short stories about their adventures together. Frog and Toad are Friends (1970) received a Caldecott Honor award and was named one of the Top 100 Picture Books of all time in a 2012 poll by School Library Journal. Frog and Toad Together (1972) won a Newbery Honor award.

The musical A Year with Frog and Toad, adapted by brothers Robert (music) and Willie Reale (books and lyrics), was commissioned by Lobel’s daughter, Adrianne Lobel. It debuted in 2002 at the Children’s Theatre Company, Minneapolis, and was remounted off-Broadway later that year at New Victory Theater. It ran briefly on Broadway at the Cort in 2003, won three Tony nominations (Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score) and broke new ground by bringing professional children’s theater for the 3-to-10-set to Broadway. 

Access Weekend for A Year with Frog and Toad
Chicago Children’s Theatre continues to grow its commitment to serving all Chicago children at The Station by expanding its array of services for all patrons with disabilities.

Each 2017-18 production will include an Access Weekend, during which all performances are presented with services for children on the autism spectrum or with Down Syndrome, children who are blind or have low vision, or children who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Access Weekend for A Year with Frog and Toad is October 7 and 8. Services include:

Pre-show Touch Tour of the set plus real-time audio description during the show for guests who are blind or have low vision:
Saturday, October 7, 9 a.m.

Live open captioning for guests who are deaf or hard of hearing:
Saturday, October 7, 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Sensory friendly performance for children on the autism spectrum or with Down Syndrome: 
Sunday, October 8, 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
Note: Modifications are made to production elements like lighting, sound and music to avoid sensory overload, with a nearby Quiet Room.

For more information about Access services, visit or contact Access and Inclusion department at

Everything's Happening At

After 11 years of itinerancy, starting this fall all of Chicago Children's Theatre's family-friendly performances, classes, camps and community outreach initiatives will take place year-round at Chicago Children's Theatre's new permanent home, The Station,a beautifully renovated, former Chicago police station in Chicago's West Loop.

 “Everything is happening at The Station” is the happy slogan for Chicago Children’s Theatre’s first full season in its new home, The Station, in the heart of Chicago’s West Loop community.

After 11 years of itinerancy, all of the company’s family-friendly performances, classes and camps will finally take place in one location, Chicago Children’s Theatre’s new permanent home, a repurposed former Chicago police station at 100 S. Racine Ave., starting this fall.

Also on tap for Chicago Children’s Theatre’s 2017-18 season
After A Year with Frog and Toad, children of all ages are cordially invited to enjoy tea or hot cocoa with CCT’s friends from the English Lake District at The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party, December 2-17. Spend the day with Peter Rabbit, Mr. Jeremy Fisher and Simpkin the cat as they delight audiences in this interactive trunk and puppet show, directed by Will Bishop and designed by Grace Needlman.

With the New Year comes My Wonderful Birthday Suit!, a world premiere written and directed by Gloria Bond Clunie, January 16–February 18, 2018. When hurtful words about skin color slip out, best friends discover how to appreciate outer beauty while learning to seek the remarkable gifts inside each of us, complete with music, surprise and the wisdom of the splendiferous Thinking Tree.

In the spring, The Station itself transforms into an all-immersive, two-story theatrical environment titled An Epic Tale of Scale, written and directed by Henry Wishcamper and Jo Cattell, collaboratively designed by CCT Community Programs Artistic Director Frank Maugeri, with original music by Gabriel Ruiz. Think The Magic School Bus meets Sleep No More, and you’re close for an encounter that surely defies description. Experience An Epic Tale of Scale, March 10-April 8.

And talk about a finale! Chicago Children’s Theatre, in a co-commission with Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis, will debut Last Stop on Market Street, a world premiere musical based on the contemporary children’s book by Matt de la Peña and illustrator Christian Robinson, winner of the 2016 Newbery Medal, Caldecott Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book. Playwright Cheryl L. West is creating this first-ever stage adaptation of Peña’s tale about a young CJ and his wise grandmother who teaches him to find beauty in everyday city life. CCT welcomes back the father and son songwriting duo, Motown music legend Lamont Dozier and his son Paris Ray Dozier, the team behind the music in CCT’s 2015 smash hit Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money, to create another original score. Henry Godinez directs. Andra Velis Simon is music director. Performances are April 24-June 3.

About the new Chicago Children’s Theatre, The Station
Chicago Children’s Theatre has transformed the former 12th District Police Station, located in the heart of Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood at 100 S. Racine Avenue, at the intersection of Racine and Monroe Street, into its first permanent home. The new Chicago Children’s Theatre, The Station, opened its doors in January 2017, and already serves as a beautiful, mixed-use performing arts, education and community engagement facility that welcomes all Chicago families.

In addition to presenting shows in the Pritzker Family Studio Theatre, The Station boasts four classrooms for a year-round roster of classes and camps for toddlers to teens. Fall classes were just posted. Go to for the full roster of educational offerings and to register.

Additionally, CCT now has its own dedicated space at The Station for Red Kite programming for children on the autism spectrum and other special needs. These children have opportunities to participate in Red Kite Adventures and CCT’s annual Camp Red Kite, the only summer arts camp of its kind in Chicago. Visit to learn more and register.

About Chicago Children’s Theatre
Since its launch in 2005, Chicago Children’s Theatre has cemented its reputation as the city’s largest professional theater company devoted exclusively to children and young families. The company evolved out of Chicago’s need for high-quality, professional year-round children’s programming to match the quality and significance of theatrical powerhouses such as Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre and Lookingglass Theatre. Likewise, CCT has always believed children should be treated as the sophisticated audiences that they are, showcasing high profile and award-winning talent, inventive production values and compelling stories that challenge, educate and entertain.

Audiences have embraced Chicago Children’s Theatre since its inaugural production, A Year with Frog and Toad, at the Goodman Theatre in 2006. Since then, CCT’s productions have featured everything from black-light scenery to live music to interactive four-dimensional sets to life-size puppets, with performances showcasing the heart of Motown to Vaudeville to contemporary, current and modern styles.

CCT has also built a national reputation due to its focus on new work, producing 16 world premieres in the last 11 years including The Selfish Giant, The Hundred Dresses, Jackie and Me, Dot and Ziggy, The Houdini Box, The Elephant and The Whale (in association with Redmoon), Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money, Leo Lionni’s Frederick, Wonderland, Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventure, A Snowy Day with Beatrix Potter, Jabari Dreams of Freedom, Another Snowy Day with Beatrix Potter, Manual Cinema’s The Magic City and The Year I Didn’t Go To School: A Homemade Circus. These enjoyed successful inaugural runs in Chicago, many followed by productions at theaters across the U.S.

CCT has always honored a strong commitment to low-income families and children with special needs. In partnership with Chicago Public Schools, the company offers free tickets to more than 5,000 Chicago-area low-income students each season.

Led by Co-Founders, Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell and Board Chair Todd Leland, and Community Programs Artistic Director Frank Maugeri, Chicago Children’s Theatre is supported by a dynamic Board of Directors comprised of dedicated individuals from the fields of entertainment, philanthropy and business. Chicago Children's Theatre is sponsored in part by ComEd, Goldman Sachs Gives and JP Morgan Chase.

For more information, visit or call (773) 227-0180.

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