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Back to ‘A Year With Frog and Toad’, a story for all ages: A talk with Daniel Pelzig

Daniel Pelzig with the cast and creative team of Children's Theatre Company. Photo courtesy of CTC.
Daniel Pelzig with the cast and creative team of Children's Theatre Company. Photo courtesy of CTC.

Children’s classics are classics for a reason; they stand the test of time. Young ones can experience these stories over and over without getting tired of them. Of course, parents doing the reading might feel differently – yet the stories might have a lot to treasure for them, too, no matter how “old” they are. Age becomes immaterial. Life experience only evolves how we can receive what these “children’s” tales have to offer. 

Daniel Pelzig, choreographer for the stage adaptation of the beloved children’s book series Frog and Toad, sees the story like that; he thinks that it truly has something for everyone, at any age. The three-time Tony Award-winning adaptation will return to Children’s Theatre Company (CTC) (Minneapolis, MN) this year (April 16-June 23). It premiered at CTC in 2022, with Pelzig serving as choreographer then as well, and transferred to Broadway in 2023. 

Dance Informa speaks with Pelzig to learn more about his background and choreographic approach, what A Year With Frog and Toad has in store for audiences, what he’s most looking forward to and more.

Working with an all-ages story

Pelzig has an extensive and varied resume, with choreography for myriad theatrical projects, including 33 Variations (Broadway), My Fair Lady, The Little Mermaid, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. That experience is in both family programming and general programming – and, interestingly, Pelzig doesn’t see a notable difference in how he approaches either type of work. 

Daniel Pelzig.
Daniel Pelzig.

“Just tell the story,” he quips, “we don’t need to pander down to kids.” In fact, Pelzig believes, adults have a lot to learn from children, in storytelling and beyond. “Children should be the landmark for how we use imagination.” In that line of thinking, he sees A Year With Frog and Toad as “sort of a hybrid” of family and general programming – suitable for all ages, a la Disney Pixar films.

Pelzig also argues that family programming is just as varied as general programming; “it’s not all the same.” A Year With Frog and Toad’s unique offering is “the relationship between the two [main] characters,” Pelzig says. “It’s about the complexity of relationships and friendships…from a human lens, and not specifically geared towards kids.” 

Heading into this project, Pelzig is looking forward to revisiting this story with a new group of collaborators. He thinks that it’s “always exciting” to dive into the process with a new cast and a new director. Once in it, artists working on the project at hand are “always finding new things.” There’s a “symbiosis” in the room, he notes, one that’s highly generative and thrilling.

There’s something bittersweet at hand when it comes to collaborators on this project. It will be CTC Artistic Director Peter C Brosius’ last production with the company. He will leave that position, after 27 years, at the end of June. 

A Year With Frog and Toad and far beyond

Pelzig sees A Year With Frog and Toad as a highlight in his career, with it being his first “Choreographer” credit on Broadway. He has also enjoyed working with “opera singers and dancers at the highest level” with companies including The Metropolitan Opera (NYC) and Lyric Opera of Chicago. Other shining moments include Boston Ballet’s full-length Romeo and Juliet and Sweeney Todd at The Kennedy Center (Washington, DC). “I’ve been lucky to work on projects with great actors and dancers,” he shares. 

Pelzig has more compelling work coming up, beyond A Year With Frog and Toad, including a Tom Stoppard play in Boston, as well as projects in Seattle, WA and Des Moines, IA. He’s also putting a lot of time and focus into his position as a Professor of Dance, Theatre and Opera at Boston Conservatory at Berklee. “Six years ago, I settled in at the Conservatory, and getting back into the classroom has been really exciting.” 

Just as adults can keep learning from children’s stories, and children themselves, Pelzig is still learning things from his students. With the sort of openness, curiosity and creative energy that he brings, that can be true for anyone. “I always say to my students, ‘You’ll never stop learning,'” Pelzig notes. What a gift! 

Children’s Theatre Company will present A Year With Frog and Toad from April 23-June 16. For tickets and more information, visit childrenstheatre.org/whats-on/frog-toad.

By Kathryn Boland of Dance Informa.

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