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Theatre Review: The Celebrated Jumping Frog Of Calaveras County


There’s an undeniable romance surrounding horse racing, sometimes called the “Sport of Kings.” But the notion of betting on how far a frog can jump is pretty silly. Four professional actors from the B Street Theater lay on the folksy satire as the first frog takes his leap.

Cast: Ready, Set, Go!

Greg: Oh wow, he jumped about a foot.

Amy: He’s just an ordinary frog, ‘t’ain’t no different than yours.

But the other frog – named in honor of a prominent United States Senator – can jump like nobody’s business.

Greg: OK, Dan’l Webster, show ‘em what you got! (Sound effects and music from “Chariots of Fire”)

A frog puppet makes an epic jump – in exaggerated slow motion – to synthesizer music from “Chariots of Fire,” a film made in the 1980s. I’m not sure what Mark Twain might have said, but as you could hear from the giggles, the kids were tickled. Now let’s get back to the show.

Greg: What do you think of that!

Amy: That is one impressive frog!

Greg: I win! Pay up!

Amy: Here’s your four bits. T’ain’t gonna eat tonight, but it was worth it just to see that frog.

Exaggerated accents are a big element of this show -- Twain used them in his story, too. The play also incorporates frequent sound effects, (boing, boing, boing) in the style of an animated cartoon. And the show moves fast -- it’s a crazy quilt of 1800s storytelling, drawing from eight tales by Twain. And even though there are modern embellishments, this amiable production succeeds in its goal: to whet kids’ appetites for the irreverent style of this great American humorist, and maybe even read a few of his stories.

The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Tales” continues on the B Street Theatre's Family Series with weekend matinees through June 6th.

Jeff Hudson

Contributing Arts Reporter and Theatre Critic

Jeff Hudson has been contributing arts-related stories to Capital Public Radio since 1995, with an emphasis on theater and classical music. He attends over 100 performances annually, ranging from modern musicals to medieval masses.   Read Full Bio