Children's Theatre Co. Enjoys Tony Honor

By Jeff Baenen

Minneapolis (AP) -- The Children's Theatre Company is enjoying a storybook season.

Coming off the biggest year in its 38-year history, the company will receive the 2003 Tony Award for excellence in regional theater. And one of its productions, "A Year With Frog and Toad," was nominated Monday for best musical, original score and book.

"We are simply ecstatic to win the regional Tony Award," artistic director Peter Brosius said hours after the award was announced in New York.

He called it "a celebration of the decades of work of this theater and its incredible staff." And, he said, "It's a celebration of young people. It tells us how important they are."

Previous regional Tony winners include Chicago's Goodman Theatre, New Haven's Yale Repertory Theater and Minneapolis' Guthrie Theater, which won in 1982.

The company began in 1965 as The Moppet Players, a small company that produced shows for children. The troupe moved into the Minneapolis Institute of Arts that year and was became The Children's Theatre Company in 1975.

It built its reputation on adapting classic children's literature, such as "Little Women," and storybooks, such as "Madeline's Rescue." Since becoming artistic director in 1997, Brosius has commissioned scripts and produced more established plays.

The company's public and school matinee productions, education classes and tour shows are attended by 350,000 people a year. It has a resident acting company, performing apprentices and 90 professionals who annually work with more than 300 technicians and actors.

"Frog and Toad," based on the children's books by Arnold Lobel, had a successful 10-week run at the Children's Theatre last year before making the leap to Broadway in April. The cast includes Mark Linn-Baker as Toad, Jay Goede as Frog and Frank Vlastnik as the scene-stealing Snail with the Mail.

The 90-minute show has been warmly received. Associated Press drama critic Michael Kuchwara called it "an ingratiating little musical" with a "sprightly, altogether catchy score."

The show competes for best musical with "Hairspray," "Movin' Out" and "Amour."

"It is some tough competition. It's a great party to be part of," Brosius said.

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