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Curtain to rise on music, mystery // "The Adventures of Mr. Toad'

The Adventures of Mr. Toad, a whimsical costume musical loosely based on the 1905 Kenneth Grahame book The Wind in the Willows, is the story of the fearless Mr. Toad, played by Brant Barthle, and his woodland pals, Mole (Annalise Searls), Ratty (Ryan Smith) and Badger (Grant LaFever), plus a host of Weasels led by the Chief Weasel, played by Becky Lane.

The show is the second produced by Arts in Motion, a theatrical group for young people based in Dade City and now in its second year.

The book was adapted for the stage by Winnie the Pooh creator A. A. Milne and later turned into a Broadway musical by William Perry, Roger McGough and Jane Iredale. The version being presented by the Dade City group is by Piers Chater-Robinson. Local director is Connie Frankel, with music direction by Cheri Littlefield and costumes by Norma Hayden.

The two-hour play (including one intermission) is a madcap romp with Mr. Toad, who turns the countryside upside down with his wild enthusiasm. His pals Mole, Rat and Badger must rescue him and the town from the evil Weasel gang.

The show is billed as entertainment for all ages.

The cast includes about 50 children ages kindergarten through high school.

Barthle, in the title role, is a sophomore at Pasco High with several theatrical credits to his name, including the Artful Dodger in Oliver and a servant in The King and I with Center Stage Players and King Arthur in Kids from Camelot with the Arts in Motion troupe.

Miss Searls, a sixth-grader at Weightman Middle School, was Granny the Cow in Clever Jack and the Beanstalk with the Arts in Motion group. Smith, a seventh-grader at Stewart Middle in Zephyrhills, was a page in Kids from Camelot and was a Spotlight on Talent winner for his dancing skills last season. Miss Lane, an eighth-grader at Pasco Middle School, played an orphan in Oliver and was a sword dancer in Brigadoon, Simon Legree in The King and I, Cinderella in Final Dress Rehearsal, all with Center Stage Players, and Lady Katherine in Kids from Camelot.

LaFever is making his stage debut in Mr. Toad.

Other speaking roles are played by Sarah Hammett, Melanie Fortunato, Janet Goldschmidt and Kelly Searls.

Theater review

The Adventures of Mr. Toad, a musical in two acts, produced by Arts in Motion of Dade City at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 3 and 4, and at 3 p.m. Nov. 5, at Miller Hall, First United Methodist Church, 37628 Church Ave., Dade City. Tickets are $5 for adults, $4 for senior citizens and children 12 and younger. For tickets, call (904) 567-7966 or (904) 521-6202.