The latest Broadway version of the rarely-performed Stephen Sondheim musical The Frogs, a send-up of Greek comedy and satire, with a book revised and expanded by Nathan Lane, is to get its UK premiere in 2017 at Jermyn Street Theatre (press nights are 16 and 17 March).
The Frogs is loosely based on a comedy written in 405 BC by Aristophanes, freely adapted for today by Burt Shevelove, and even more freely adapted by Nathan Lane, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. This production is presented by House on the Hill Productions in association with Jermyn Street Theatre and directed by Grace Wessels, premiering at Jermyn Street Theatre from Tuesday 14 March to Saturday 8 April.
The Frogs was originally performed in Yale University’s gymnasium’s swimming pool in 1974, featuring members of the Yale swimming team, and Meryl Streep and Sigourney Weaver in its ensemble. This latest version, that opened on Broadway in 2004, includes seven new Sondheim songs.
From the same writers behind A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum, The Frogs playfully explores the great challenges of human existence: confronting our fears, understanding life and death, and challenging the distractions that can prevent us from achieving our goals.
This funny yet poignant musical follows Dionysos, Greek God of wine and drama, and his slave Xanthias on a journey to Hades to collect renowned critic and playwright George Bernard Shaw so that he may enlighten the easily misled and coerced masses of Earth.
Along this journey, Dionysos and Xanthias meet Herakles, Charon, Pluto, and of course, the chorus of frogs. Then, Shakespeare shows up and starts declaiming his greatest hits; and before long he engages in a battle of words with Mr Shaw. Who will win the honour of becoming reincarnated: The Bard or Bernard?
The Frogs stays true to its heritage, mixing Aristophanic pratfall satire with a Sondheim score that swings from witty to pretty to rambunctious, but it also mirrors the Greek original for the serious issue of the role of the arts in a world beset by war and folly.
Broadway star Nathan Lane decided to expand The Frogs in 2001. “After September 11 I started to think. There’s something in this piece right now… There’s something idealistic about the notion of someone believing that the arts can make a difference… I found it moving, in light of what is going on in the world.”
Casting is to be announced.