A NOTE FROM THE ORIGINAL DIRECTOR: Andrew Sinclair
The biggest lesson I learned from Freddie the Frog is to trust the material.
It is that simple - trust the text. This play works with an
audience - young and old - just as the original books
continue to work for millions of budding musicians across
the country. Kids will fall in love with Freddie and from
there the possibilities are endless.
As Sharon Burch and I began to put this production together, my first instinct was to smooth out the edges of the script. I had major concerns about the transitions and I wanted this to feel more like a well-polished play. I felt the need to downplay Red Ant Narrators and I feared the ramifications of audience interaction. I began to question simple fundamentals: Would the audience get it? Would the moments with the Red Ants’ reviewing the notes/symbols of the story feel clunky in performance?
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Yes, the audiences get it.
Yes, the transitions work because they rely on the audience to move the story forward.
Yes, the audience needs the transitions to center themselves for the next story in the production.
And yes, the audiences of all age levels need the songs to become members of the story, rather than passive listeners. One of my fondest memories of this production was watching over 1,000 patrons - all of various age levels - rising as one to dance Eli’s Hokey Pokey or the Tempo Island Conga. They did this because they were a part of the story and they trusted the Red Ants enough to take them on this journey. It was in that moment that I realized my best decision was to do the same and to trust the text and the power of theatre. This play should not feel like other plays - it is its own beast. If I trusted the text, these audiences were not only entertained - they were now educated.
Please be warned that it is easy to get lost in the magnitude of this production. My best advice for directors and designers is to embrace simplicity and to allow your audience to fill in the gaps. Children are not only the most honest audience you will have, but also the most creative. If you tell the story, the audience will create the world. If Freddie sees it, they will see it too.
The Musical Adventures of Freddie the Frog is one of most successful plays for young audiences that I have encountered. It was a great challenge for my actors, technicians, designers and musicians. The response to our production was phenomenal and the power of music, theatre and audience participation left our audiences thirsty for more. I know that your company will receive the same reaction.
I leave you with three final missions when encountering this text:
Trust the text.
Trust the message.
Trust the power of Freddie.
If you can.