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Take a wild ride with Mr. Toad on Pleasanton stage

East Bay Children's Theatre presenting fun classic at Firehouse

The batty J. Thaddeus Toad (James Paul Gregory, center) tries the patience of (from left) Rat (Benjamin E. Latham), Mole (Justin Lopez), Miss Hedgehog (Samantha Rasler), Badger (Wayne Steffen) and Eliza (Shauna Satnick) in East Bay Children's Theatre world-premiere production of the musical "The Great and Glorious Mr. Toad" by Ron Lytle. (Photo by EBCT)

Mr. Toad's wild ride is careening through Pleasanton next weekend when the East Bay Children's Theatre presents "The Great and Glorious Mr. Toad" at the Firehouse Arts Center in two performances, at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on April 7.

The musical comedy is based on Kenneth Grahame's classic, "The Wind in the Willows." When the batty J. Thaddeus Toad is overtaken by motor mania, his friends the cantankerous Badger, philosophical Rat and wide-eyed Mole try to save him. The ensuing adventures include a desperate jailbreak, a band of bumbling bobbies and a pack of felonious weasels.

Playwright Ron Lytle has polished up this venerable vehicle with lots of laughs and daffy new characters, as well as eight sparkling tunes: "Life on the River," "Hello, You Fellows!," "I Like You, Rat," "The Batty J. Thaddeus Toad" "Let's Travel," "The Wind in the Willows," "A Ladylike Lady" and "United Weasels Stand."

"The Firehouse was our most profitable stop on our tour last year, and all of that money goes directly to bringing our free tours to the under-served elementary schools," Lytle said.

East Bay Children's Theatre was founded in 1933 to keep alive traditional folk and fairy tales via musical theater in various public venues, and to use proceeds from those ticket sales to perform free at schools in economically disadvantaged areas. The performances now reach about 9,000 students in grades pre-kindergarten through fifth each year.

Volunteers help with costumes and sets, and handle the lighting and sound equipment as well as perform, under the direction of a professional director, choreographer and music director.

The "Mr. Toad" cast comes from throughout the Bay Area and includes Terry Pink Alexander, Karen Fox, James Paul Gregory, Stephanie Kara, Benjamin E. Latham, Martha McDowell, Samantha Rasler, Howard Rosenberg, Shauna Satnick, Wayne Steffen and Ken Woolfe.

Previous East Bay Children's Theatre productions included "That's Our Snow White" and "It Must Be Pinocchio!"

Tickets for "The Great and Glorious Mr. Toad" are $12-$17, the show is about one hour, and is fun for the entire family. Pleasanton performances sell out so advance purchase is recommended.

For more information about East Bay Children's Theatre or to buy tickets, go to www.EBCTonline.org. Tickets can also be purchased at www.firehousearts.org, by calling 931-4848, or at the theater box office, 4444 Railroad Ave.

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