Lex Liang bends his tall frame to the task of hand-sewing the lining into a vintage-looking, subtly green suit jacket. Around him, the scents of warm linen and sewing machine oil waft, and suits, dresses and swimsuits hang in several long rows.
"The style that we're going for," explains Liang's cohort, Scott R.C. Levy, "feels very Vaudevillian. It's 1930s jazz that goes from episode to episode. There's a big-band quality to it, too."
As planned by the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, A Year With Frog and Toad is anything but anthropomorphic theater. Though it may jauntily follow Frog and Toad from the end of hibernation through the beginning of winter, "This is definitely not [Kenneth Grahame's] Wind in the Willows," says Levy, the FAC's producing artistic director. "This is about people who are called Frog and Toad."
Liang, a costume and set designer who has worked with Levy before, further explains the connection. "Even though we're treating these characters very much as people, we're using this concept of animals in the way they're portrayed," he says. "One character is very much rough around the edges, more like a toad, for instance."
Liang and tailor Janson Fangio have developed distinctive looks for each of the characters. Toad's suits lean toward a brown palette and are less refined (although his paisley swim tog is killer), while Frog's clothing is sleek, and greenish. The birds' gear is 1930s jazz-girl all the way.
Lighting designer Holly Anne Rawls rounds out the production, using lighting to reference the passing of time. "What I have to work with is great," she says, "because I have all these wonderful colors in the costumes and the set, so my job is mostly to reinforce the mood."
A Year With Frog and Toad, based on the children's stories by Arnold Lobel, was brought to the stage in 2002 by brothers Robert and Willie Reale. Says Levy, "It is one of the first true musical comedies for the entire family that made it to Broadway, as a real Broadway production."