Frog Kiss Review
Brilliant, boundlessly energetic, buoyant, exuberant, and beautiful in manifold ways, the Virginia Stage Company’s world premiere of Frog Kiss is exemplary of the artistry and entertainment of musical theatre.
From a choral beginning of swing I-Ching and be-bop Tao in four part harmony, through high energy song and dance and tongue-in-cheek narrative, to its more-or-less predictable but still fun resolution, this tale about a hyper-rational, highly intellectual and empirical Princess whose parents’ kingdom is beset by quite recognizable political woes – solvable only by her marriage, of course – possesses an absolutely gleeful feel, a real joie de vivre and a self-aware joie de theatre.
The show is full of clever allusions and semi-references – musical, visual, verbal – to styles, shows, movies and artists of the past, yet Charles Leipart’s book and lyrics are never coy or self-praising. Whether or not you get the in-jokes, or if you only sense something familiar about this or that musical riff, there’s plenty of fun, sheer pure fun, rolling off the stage.
And OMG the dance! The choreography! Surely the best tap this writer has seen since Savion Glover at the Sandler, and very possibly the best ensemble dancing in these parts since the biggies like Mark Morris and Alvin Ailey and Birmingham and ABT visited.
Eric Schorr’s score blends handfuls of styles ranging from jazz dominated show tunes to rap, in a way that makes that latter genre not only relevant and enjoyable, but turns its presence into one of the delighful puns that season the show.
Entwined with the well played quasi-romance of Princess Clementine (Stephanie Rothenberg) and The Frog who is mysteriously endowed with speech (Curtis Holbrook), is the neatly acted attempt by the younger Princess Hortense (Katie Lee Hill) to win the right to inherit the throne for herself and her easily bossed husband Claus (Preston Truman Boyd).
King Frederic (James Beaman) and Queen Margot (Aisha dHaas) provide a sweet portrait of enduring love and mutual respect (and tolerant parenting) in a long lived marriage, and a handful of less prominently featured characters are memorably played by a tightly knit ensemble, under the direction of Kenneth L. Roberson, who also choreographed the tap dancing.
The rest of the superb choreography is by Lorna Ventura, fine costumes by Paul Tazewell, excellent scenery designs by Neil Patel, perfect lighting by Howell Binkley, crystal clear and effective sound by Peter Fitzgerald, musical direction and conducting by Barton Kuebler.
This is an often ribald but never crude version of the old enchanted prince/frog fairy tale, certainly not suited for anyone under late high school age, and maybe not for easily embarrassed late teens either. Anatomical and sexual allusions are crystal clear, though vocabulary is nothing close to explicit, but if you don’t want to explain why a riding crop nor a frog’s tongue can be funny, leave the younger set home the first time you see it. If you decide it would have been OK for whomever you didn’t bring, you will not regret the excuse to see Frog Kiss a second time.
Book and Lyrics by Charles Leipart
Music by Eric Schorr
Based on the novella The Frog Prince, a Fairytale for Consenting Adults by Stephen Mitchell
Virginia Stage Company at the Wells Theatre
110 E. Tazewell St.
(Tazewell St. & Monticello Ave.)
Through Feb 3