St. Charles Herald-Guide

Amphibian duo star in R.J. Vial play

By Kyle Barnett - September 21, 2012

The classic childrenís book and musical "A Year with Frog and Toad" is making its way on stage at R.J. Vial Elementary.

The story follows the two amphibians throughout a year beginning with them awakening from hibernation and going through all of the seasons of the year.

The production between the talented acting class and the school choir will feature numerous first time actors and singers.

The musical was a popular Broadway show in the early 2000s, but director and drama teacher Danny Pitre said this version is quite different from the professional production.

"It is watered down from the Broadway show. The Broadway show is two and half hours, this is a half hour," Pitre said. "They split the script up so that nobodyís really a star, but itís good to get them involved."

Pitre has been a drama teacher for 20 years now, mostly on the elementary level. He said selecting the right kids for the production was a hefty task.

"The whole school auditioned, 71 kids auditioned and we came up with 24," Pitre said.

Pitre said cutting children form the production was the most difficult process.

"Telling a child no – cutting a kid from addition, that was tough. You hate to not give them that opportunity," Pitre said. "But I couldnít put 71 kids on stage, 24 is enough."

Out of the 71 that started only two could receive the title roles. Ten-year-old Kori Curole stars as Toad and 9-year-old Taylor Champagne stars as Frog.

Curole said despite her young age this is not her first on stage role. She recently starred in a play at her church and often practices acting with her older sister and brother.

Champagne is also a veteran of the stage having acted as a tree and various animals in a production over the summer break at a camp.

Curole said her favorite piece in the musical is the song "Getta Load of Toad" in which Toad sings about being uncomfortable being seen in a bathing suit.

Curole said the part originally was going to go to another classmate who had stage fright because she did not want to be seen in a bathing suit.

"She didnít want to wear a bathing suit so I told Mr. Pitre that I would be brave enough to wear a bathing suit," Curole said.

The girls and the rest of the cast have numerous songs they must memorize for the musical although when asked Curole and Taylor were not exactly sure of the number and settled on 15.

"We have to memorize pretty much all of them," Taylor said.

Pitre said the students actually have 15 musical cues they must remember.

"Thereís 15 musical cues. There are six songs," Pitre said.

Still, Taylor said she has a regular regimen in place to memorize all those songs.

"I put the songs on my iPod and just listen to them over and over again," Taylor said. "Like when I am brushing my teeth and I have free time."

Curole said she also works hard to get the words down.

"I practice everyday at home or on the way back from school if I donít have time," Curole said. "I just remember the beat."

Both students expressed confidence in themselves and said they were not nervous about taking on the roles at all.

Pitre, a former performer as a graduate from Barnum and Baileyís Circus Clown College, said he enjoys giving children a chance to perform at a young age.

"I did a lot of theatre in college and then I got into teaching after that. I do it to motivate them to give them the opportunity. I didnít have this as a child and I wish somebody would have and that is why I do it," Pitre said. "We really wanted to get the kids up on stage and give them the opportunity to do theatre on their level. Thatís basically it."

Pitre also said the students are learning valuable life skills by participating in the production.

"No matter what the skills they learn in theatre theyíll use the rest of their lives - talking in front of people, it teaches them a work ethic, it teaches them group dynamics, it teaches them many things they take on in later life all the way around," Pitre said.

The production of "A Year with Frog and Toad" will be on stage at R.J. Vial Sept. 25 and 26. For more information contact Pitre at (985) 758-2771.

Taylor Champagne (left) and Kori Curole rehearse their lines.
Taylor Champagne (left) and Kori Curole rehearse their lines.