The delightful new musical Frog Kiss, at the Theatre at St. Clement's, breathes new life into the oft-told fairy tale, "The Frog Prince." This version is a bit bawdier than other incarnations -- and perhaps not appropriate for the youngest of audience members while teens and adults are sure to find plenty to enjoy.
Charles Leipart's book keeps enough elements of the traditional story intact, while adding in things like a chorus of Tao Masters (Jordan Barbour, Kenita Miller, Kate Pazakis, and Herman Sebek) and giving a more intellectual bent to the princess Clementine (Hanley Smith) whose attempt to transform the frog (Curtis Holbrook) into a prince proves more difficult than a mere kiss.
Eric Schorr's catchy, jazz-infused score keeps toes a tappin' -- especially those of the actors! Lorna Ventura's energetic yet whimsical choreography is well performed by the entire cast, but most especially by triple-threat leading man Holbrook who gets to demonstrate his dancing in several numbers, not the least of which is the dynamic first act closer, "Talents to Tap."
Holbrook also proves to be a great comedic actor, and has good chemistry with Smith's Clementine. Another standout is Manna Nichols as Clementine's sister, Hortense, whose sexy yet comic rendition of "Attention" is one of the show's highlights. Joseph Dellger and Terry Burrell, as King Frederic and Queen Margot, respectively, do a wonderful job with "Think of the Children," which imagines what kind of offspring a princess and a frog will produce with Margot initially thinking about them as monsters and Frederic likening them to the half animal creatures of mythology.
There are admittedly a few jokes that don't quite land in director Kenneth L. Roberson's production, as well as some roles that are too broadly caricatured. But these are minor quibbles that could be fixed in a more fully realized mounting of the show. Indeed, Frog Kiss definitely deserves to be the next breakout NYMF hit.
-- Dan Bacalzo