The Frogs is legendary for its 1974 premiere, which took place in and around the swimming pool at the gym of Yale University, with a cast that included three students who went on to bigger things: Meryl Streep, Sigourney Weaver and Christopher Durang. Freely adapted from a play by Aristophanes, the musical by Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics) and Burt Shevelove (book) is an antiwar satire, among other things. It shares a sensibility with another Sondheim-Shevelove-Larry Gelbart musical inspired by a classic, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
"The time is the present, the place is ancient Greece,'' Sondheim writes of The Frogs in Finishing the Hat, volume one of his collected lyrics. "Dionysos, god of wine and drama, is in despair at the state of the world and decides what it needs is a great dramatist to arouse mankind from its moral torpor. The writer he is passionate about is George Bernard Shaw, and he takes as his mission a journey to the underworld to bring Shaw back from the dead and have him write more great plays on earth.''
The original Frogs was pretty slight, with just seven songs. FreeFall is performing an expanded version with six more Sondheim songs from a production that starred Nathan Lane as the god Dionysos in 2004. The freeFall cast of nine includes Jorge Acosta as Dionysos, Dick Baker as Xanthias, Matt McGee as Pluto and Shaw, and Aleshea Harris as Charisma. Michael Raabe will lead an orchestra of keyboards, percussion, guitar, woodwinds and brass.
John Fleming, Times performing arts critic