Sometimes you need a bit of nostalgia to keep you going during moments of change. Children's Theatre Company is welcoming new Managing Director Jill A. Anderson and new Artistic Director Rick Dildine this summer as the theater’s Artistic Director Peter Brosius concludes his work with “A Year with Frog and Toad,” in performance through June 16. Brosius directed numerous Children’s Theatre Company shows this year including “Alice in Wonderland.”

Jay Goede, cast as Frog, quit the production two days before the premiere, claiming it was a “literal disaster.” Goede played Frog in the theater’s first run of the show in 2002 and the subsequent Broadway run. “A Year with Frog and Toad” on Broadway was nominated for three Tony awards in 2003: Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Score. This is the first time Brosius is directing the play.

Reed Sigmund, who plays Toad, said he doesn’t feel like Frog left him in a bad spot.

“Jay certainly did not leave us in a lurch,” Sigmund said over the phone after opening weekend. “I love John-Michael [Zuerlein], who's currently playing Frog. There were some differences, but that doesn't mean that anybody's not loved. And it doesn't mean that anybody's necessarily wrong. It just was an unfortunate situation.”

Perhaps Jay the Frog just needed some alone time on a rock, a theme explored in “A Year with Frog and Toad.”

The show will bring nostalgic comfort to audience members who grew up with “Frog and Toad” and delight to children who are just learning the stories of the two friends.

After catching the show on opening weekend with my two young nephews, Liam and Graham, I spoke with Reed Sigmund, who plays Toad, about playing an iconic character.  Liam and Graham had a few questions for Toad about the show’s theater tricks, too.  

Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Southwest Voices:  I am curious what it feels like to play such an iconic character.

Reed Sigmund, as Toad: Iconic characters come with a huge responsibility. So it certainly feels like I'm a steward of something very important, and that I'm holding something that people love, something that they cherish. And it's fragile. So I feel like I have a heightened responsibility to make sure that I'm not betraying anybody's expectations, while at the same time trying to let them see something they haven't seen before. It's a delicate balance. The challenge is thrilling.

SWV: What is the most challenging part of playing the role of Toad?

RS: The origins of its style can be traced back to vaudeville. Vaudeville needs to be grounded in truth. By the end of the show, we can't just go, ‘Yeah, they were funny.’ You need to genuinely care about these characters, and you need to care about the relationship between the two of them. And if it's just humor, humor, humor, we don't get that connection. It’s just the balance of finding the humor, but making sure that humor is always grounded in truth.

SWV: How do you get that truth to come out?

RS: Toad is a very anxious individual. And anxiety is a trait that has been present in my life, since I was born. I deal with anxiety, my kids deal with anxiety. There's the moment where [Toad] finds a note, and he's like, ‘[Frog] wants to be alone? What? Why does he want to be alone? Maybe he does not want to be my friend anymore.’ And that anxiety is real.

SWV: How do the children’s responses impact you on stage?

RS: It energizes me. I always try to allow the audience in, and while the focal point in a scene might be my connection to the other actor, I'm certainly allowing the audience to be part of that relationship as well. So I let their energy feed my energy.

Janely Rodriguez, Ryan London Levine, and Becca Claire Hart as birds in “A Year with Frog and Toad.” Photo by Glen Stubbe, courtesy of the Children’s Theatre Company

SWV: As I wait for Liam and Graham to get home from school, I will ask one of their questions on costume choice. The other characters were more costumed than you and Frog in terms of looking like animals. Could you speak to that choice?

RS: You don't need to find strong accent pieces to help assist an audience in telling which characters [Frog and Toad] are at any given moment. But because the other actors play so many different roles, whether it's a bird, whether it's a snail, whether it's a turtle, whether it's a mouse, whether it's a mole, because they're changing costumes so frequently, to assist the audience in telling what character they are, in that moment, they find more specific animal-related costume details.

Liam with Southwest Voices: How did the flowers come up from the floor?

RS: Isn’t that really cool? There’s a whole bunch of holes in the stage. And through the show, if you look down those holes, you can actually see the very tippy tops of the flowers. And they have a hydraulic thing with these tubes connected to it. And what happens is when the stage manager says ‘Go!’ somebody pushes a button, and it basically blows stuff through the tube, which forces the flowers to rise up.

Graham with Southwest Voices: Why was the mouse swimming in the water?

RS: You know, that is such a good question. And I have the exact same question. When I first watched the scene, I was like, ‘Hey, so I'm not trying to nitpick the play, but I get why there's a turtle dancing underwater. And I can understand why there's a lizard dancing underwater, but what's with the mouse?’ They found out that mice can actually stay underwater longer than people. So there's something about mice being able to hold their breath longer. And they made sure that little [underwater] dance scene is not longer than a mouse can hold its breath.

Liam with SWV: How did you make the cloud effect on the back stage wall?

RS: That is actually a beautiful set design. And it's painted. So it's a big blob. And then they light it and they'll put different color lights on it to make it look like it's different times of day. And here's something that's actually really, really cool. The ' Frog and Toad' books were written by Arnold Lobel. And Arnold Lobel had a daughter, Adrianne. And Adrianne Lobel is the person who drew and designed the entire set. So those clouds that you saw were drawn by Adrianne Lobel, who is the daughter of the man who wrote the ‘Frog and Toad’ books.

Performances of “A Year with Frog and Toad” run Thursday to Sunday at the Children’s Theatre Company through June 16. The Children’s Theatre Company is located at 2400 3rd Ave. S.