The Frogs

Music & Lyrics by
Stephen Sondheim

Book by
Burt Shevelove
& Nathan Lane

Freely adapted from a comedy by Aristophanes

July 2008

Off the Wall Theatre presented the Midwest priemiere of the new version of Stephen Sondheimís latest musical wonder, "THE FROGS" in July 2008. First performed in a shortened form at the Yale Repertory Theatre in a swimming pool many years ago, this new version has an updated book by comic actor Nathan Lane, and many new Sondheim tunes. 

The play is based upon Aristophanes classic written in 405 B.C., updated and freely adapted in musical comedy form by Burt Shevelove. In the true style of ancient Greek theatre, there is a freewheeling vaudeville feel about the show. Of course, as was also done in ancient Greece, current topical references abound. Actors break in and out of character, speak to the audience, and bring down the house with comic antics. 

Dionysos, the God of wine (and Theatre) decides that our world is in terrible shape. War, terror and intolerance abound. Along with his reluctant and nervous slave, Xanthias he travels to Hades to find someone to bring back to earth to save us all. Dionysos and Xanthias are rather like Jackie Gleason and Art Carney in their comic shenanigans. Along the way, they meet Herakles who give them fashion advice via a clever Sondheim patter song, Pluto, who entertains them with his show girls and a song about what a Hell of a place Hades is, and Dionysos deceased wife, Ariadne. Dionysos attempts to bring George Bernard Shaw back with him, but the pompous playwright proves to be more than he can handle. Shaw has a duel with William Shakespeare, and chaos ensues. 

If all of this sounds very strange and complicated, fear not. It is a comic delight to please the eye and ear. Laneís adaptation, while being true to the original Greek, is jam packed with brilliant one-liners, physical gags, and touching sentimental moments. Sondheim has written more beautiful ensemble music for this piece than for any other of his shows. There is an orgy number dedicated to wine, a tap dance for Bernard Show, and a show stopping political ponder called "Itís Only a Play!" A wonderful song and dance about "Traveling," and of courseÖthe title number "The Frogs" which is eight minutes long and features singing and dancing frogs attacking our heroes in their boat. The Frogs represent those people in the world who donít want to take a stand or get involved, but who will do anything to get others to accept their sedentary conservative views. 

Stage Director Dale Gutzman, Music Director, Chris Wszalek, and Technical Director David Roper, pulled out all the stops for this Off the Wall extravaganza. 

The cast contained almost every Milwaukee favorite. Eighteen talented singer/dancer/actors including: David Flores and Karl Miller as Dionysos and Xanthias, and Marilyn White, Robert Hirschi, Ben George, Sharon Rise, Lawrence Lukasavage, Jeremy Welter, Aric Zabel, Liz Mistele, Heather Reynolds, Kristin Pagenkopf, and many others. 

The show involves three large dance numbers which were choreographed by Karl Miller, Sharon Rise, and Kristin Pagenkopf. The set involved large rolling platforms on wheels, special "Underwater" lighting, a Greek Temple, and other surprises. 

This production was done with the permission of Music Theatre International.