top of page

'Frog Song - A New Children's Opera' Book by Taylor Marie Graham; Music by William Rowson A WORLD PREMIERE

Presented by Here for Now Theatre on the grounds of the Stratford Perth Museum

Courtesy of Here for Now website

Geoffrey Coulter, Guest writer, actor, director, arts educator

“Frog Song” has passion but needs to leap a little further to proclaim itself a true children’s opera.

What does a boy in a frog suit, an insecure soprano, her free-spirited costume designer friend, a fairy-tale inspired singing competition and a trio of hopping frogs have in common? They’re all summer campers at the enchanted Camp Songbird, discovering how song will change their lives and relationships forever.

Stratford’s independent theatre company, Here for Now, presents the premiere of the new one-act children’s opera, “Frog Song”, a charming and fanciful tale of facing fears, self-confidence, finding new friends and lots of operatic singing. Navdeep and Wyatt are two disparate pre-teens paired to participate in a singing competition. Though divergent in talents and attitudes, they have mysterious dreams featuring a trio of mischievous singing frogs. With the help of other campers and their director, they must defeat their fears and sing their respective truths to the world.

The dynamic cast of 7 talented performers, three doing double duty morphing between human campers and pouncing polliwogs, thoroughly invested themselves in their extraordinary characters, with an exaggerated but never phony acting style. After all, this is a show geared to a particular audience and is rightly limited to a 65-minute running time for those who may get squirmy after an extended period of sitting still.

This is a show that needs to provide constant stimulation to keep younger viewers interested and engaged. This production started well. More on this later.

The venue, located on the grounds of the Stratford Perth Museum, is refreshingly unique; a small rectangular white tent, open on one side to a small patch of grass and an endless vista of farmland (with an encroaching housing development in the distance). The action takes place on a small elevated square stage within and, aptly, on the turf beyond. Performers enter and exit from outside, popping in and out from their jungly backstage. A rather heavy summer deluge earlier in the day left most of the grass and pathways a soggy, slippery bog, a particularly authentic setting for the frogs but often making actor (and patron) exits and entrances precarious. A wet and muddy stage and soiled costumes didn’t faze this cast in the slightest.

Director Liza Balkan does an admirable job staging her actors’ comings and goings both within and outside the tent, keeping the narrative flowing and interesting. Unfortunately, Beth Kates’ projections of some very cool abstract art above the stage were washed out and awkwardly positioned. I’m sure most of the audience didn’t see them.

The simple low-budget set dressings by designer Bonnie Deakin evoked a fantasy summer camp with funky lawn signs and games - a bit sparse but we got the idea. Deakin’s costumes are rather ordinary, consisting of pastel T-shirts, leggings, shorts, and running shoes with an occasional vibrant shirt, vest and bowtie PLUS a onesie frog costume. Changing the chorus from frogs to humans by having them don and doff ball caps with bulbous eyes secured to them was innovative and practical.

Under William Rowson’s deft musical direction, the cast brings cadence to his pleasant but standard compositions of coloratura and arias. Curiously, the program billing proclaims this production “…with the Stratford Symphony Orchestra”. I was puzzled when only two keyboards provided piano accompaniment.

Priya Khatri, as Navdeep, the resilient, empathetic camper with a heart of gold, blesses us with her angelic soprano though my companion and I had trouble understanding all her lyrics. As flamboyant camp director Jay, Derek Kwan’s bel canto tenor, charming smile and affable demeanour are right on. However, at times his lyrics were also difficult to discern. Wyatt, played by Ben Skipper, gives us a multi-dimensional and utterly convincing performance as a melancholy young camper caught in a personal crisis. Darcey Baker as Riley, a quirky and fun-loving old friend of Navdeep’s, has an expansive voice with volume to spare (perhaps too much for such a wee venue). As the frog chorus (and campers), Megan Dart, Michael Neale, and Lucy Sanci spend most of the show crouched on the wet grass and boast excellently stylized physical and vocal abilities and interpretations.

“Frog Song” is billed as a children’s opera but needs to connect more meaningfully with its junior crowd. The script’s decisive message of cooperation and friendship starts well but loses its staying power. Kids have visceral but finite reactions to the extraordinary. Children at the show I attended were completely engrossed for the first half of the show, especially in Wyatt, dressed as a giant frog.

However, attention waned in the second half.

Perhaps the fairy tale element needs embellishment or more outlandish costumes and props. Perhaps the lead characters need funnier, wackier, more off-the-wall dialogue. Maybe lyrics and music need to be exhilarating, catchy and memorable. The story can’t let up for a moment.

Opera is a bizarre, wonderful, head-on collision between music, drama, and passion.

“Frog Song” has passion but needs to leap a little further to proclaim itself a true children’s opera.

Running Time: approximately 65 minutes with no interval.

The production runs until August 12 on the grounds of the Stratford Perth Museum, 4275 Huron Road. For tickets, call the Box Office: 519.272.HFNT(4368) or visit

Abstract Building
Black on Transparent_edited.png
bottom of page