Original Yale University Cast

The Frogs [Yale Univ. Cast]

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In 1974, fresh from his success with the Broadway musical A Little Night Music, songwriter Stephen Sondheim joined his old collaborator, Burt Shevelove (co-author of the book for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum), to adapt Aristophanes' 405 BC comedy, The Frogs, for the Yale School of Drama. The story of Dionysos' journey to Hades to bring a playwright (in the new version, George Bernard Shaw, eventually displaced by William Shakespeare) back to earth, the show employed the Yale University Swimming Pool for its production, the pool representing the River Styx, populated with a cast full of swimming actors playing frogs. Larry Blyden, who had portrayed Pseudolus in the 1972 Broadway revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, played Dionysos. (The chorus included soon-to-be-famous Yale students Meryl Streep, Sigourney Weaver, and Christopher Durang.) The show played for eight performances starting on May 20. Some enterprising audience member brought a tape recorder four days later, resulting in an 87-minute tape that has been duplicated, traded, and occasionally sold among theater buffs ever since. The sound quality leaves a lot to be desired, but it is possible to get the gist of the story and to appreciate at least some of the jokes. There are only seven songs, the best-known of them being the hilarious "Invocation and Instructions to the Audience," which was actually an early attempt at an opening song for A Funny Thing, later replaced by "Comedy Tonight," sung by Blyden and Michael Vale. The rest are choral numbers. It is perhaps appropriate that the tape is nearly impossible to find, since it will be best appreciated by members of the Sondheim cult, who will be willing to forgive its primitive sound for the sake of hearing a rare work by the master.

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