The Frogs
Dionysus, George Bernard Shaw and Shakespeare collide in Sondheim's satirical tribute to Greek comedies.
Show Essentials
8
Roles
+ Ensemble
PG
Rated
2
Acts

Full Synopsis

Prologue

The "Opening Fanfare" announces the appearance of two actors who will later play Dionysis and Xanthias. Addressing the audience, they decide to tell a story in traditional Greek style, one full of slapstick, music, dances, spectacle and commentary. The subject: a god and his slave. Their purpose: to save mankind. The actors raise their arms and sing a playful, yet thorough, set of timely instructions that tell the audience how to behave ("Invocation and Instructions to the Audience").

Act One

With a clap of thunder, the curtains open, revealing a large urn. A Chorus gathers and introduces "The Frogs" by Aristophanes. The time is now, the setting is Ancient Greece. With a growing rumble, the urn cracks in half and Dionysis, the Greek god of wine and drama, and his loyal slave, Xanthias, emerge. In Athens, the Peloponnesian War rages on with no signs of stopping. Dionysis is weary of man's complacency and growing hopelessness. He forms a plan to journey to the underworld to bring back George Bernard Shaw, whose writings, he believes, will save mankind. The journey may be treacherous, but there's only one thing that he fears: soggy, slimy frogs with small minds and a monster group mentality. But, frogs or no, the journey must be taken. Dionysis tells Xanthias to step to it – they are off to Hades ("I Love to Travel")!

Their first stop is the house of Dionysis' half-brother and the great warrior-hero, Herakles. Having made the journey to Hades before, Herakles advises Dionysis to "Dress Big" and gives him some of his own lion skins to wear. Disguised as Herakles, Dionysis forges on towards the River Styx ("I Love to Travel – Reprise").

Arriving at the docks, they meet the boatman, Charon, who prepares them for the trip ("All Aboard"). Once on the river, Dionysis mentions that he's heard that Styx is full of frogs, but Charon assures him that it's only a rumor. Charon passes Dionysis the oars and takes a little nap while Dionysis tells Xanthias about his beautiful wife, Ariadne, who died long ago ("Ariadne"). The song, while heartfelt and moving, puts Xanthias to sleep. Unbeknownst to the passengers, the boat has been surrounded by a number of very aggressive (and sycronized) frogs ("The Frogs"). A great and terrible frog pulls Dionysis into the water. His cries wake Xanthias, who tries to save his master, but it's too late. Dionysis has been dragged into the river by the frogs that he fears most.

Act Two

With his master gone, Xanthias decides to make the show all about himself. To his surprise, Dionysis climbs back on the boat, having miraculously escaped the frogs. Charon wakes up just in time to dock the boat in Hades. He tells them that they have 24 hours to get in and out before all hell breaks loose.

Dionysis is hell-bent on finding George Bernard Shaw. After a narrow escape from the thanaglebe, a terrible carnivorous bird, he and Xanthias head towards Pluto's palace.

The beautiful voices of the Dionysians – worshippers of pleasure and wine – fill the air. The travelers are momentarily distracted as they submerge themselves in the glorious Dionysian orgy ("Hymnos: Evoe!"). Dionysis throws himself into the heavenly debauchery, but Xanthias reminds him of their mission to find George Bernard Shaw. With the final strains of the song, they find themselves at the Palace of Pluto.

Knocking on the door, Dionysis is mistaken for Herakles by Aeakos, the keeper of the keys to the palace. Aeakos is furious to find Herakles back in Hades and swears vengeance upon him for killing Cerebus, the three-headed dog. When he leaves to get back up, Dionysis presses the lion skins upon Xanthias. Charisma, the sumptuous handmaiden of Persephone, enters and invites Xanthias (dressed as Herakles) to join her in a bath of hippopotamus milk. Jealous, Dionysis takes back the skins only to meet Virilla, Queen of the Amazons, who promises to rain down a world of hurt upon Herakles for stealing the girdle of the goddess Hippolyte. Aeakos returns with five huge guards, ready to avenge his beloved dog.

Not a moment too soon, Pluto arrives and sees that neither Dionysis nor Xanthias is (nor ever could be) Herakles. Pluto welcomes his nephew to Hades, telling them that it is really a wonderful place ("Hades"). Dionysis reveals his plan to bring George Bernard Shaw back to Earth to save mankind. Pluto tells him that all of the great dead playwrights are, just this moment, dining at the palace. Dionysis tells Pluto about the terrible situation on Earth, and an apathetic Greek Chorus steps in to remind the audience that, while serious matters are at hand, there's no need to worry – someone else higher up will take care of everything ("It's Only a Play"). Pluto takes Dionysis and Xanthias inside the palace to the banquet.

Xanthias and the Handmaiden head off to Persephone's house for a little fun. Xanthias, trying to impress her, tells the Handmaiden that he's George Bernard Shaw.

Dionysis bursts out of the palace to herald the arrival of the great playwright ("Shaw"). Shaw, surrounded by his loyal Shavians, arrives, and Dionysis tells him of his plan. Charon pulls up at the docks ("All Aboard – Reprise"). Shaw is eager to leave but is waylaid by the arrival of William Shakespeare. Shaw decides that he cannot leave Hades until he puts Will in his place. Rivalry percolates between the two great authors, then boils over into a full-fledge fight. Dionysis declares a contest between them, a "battle-royal" of words ("Bring out the Writings"). Dionysis calls out the topics – Woman, Man and the Life Force – as Shaw and Shakespeare battle with passages from their best works, Shaw arguing with sharp reason and Shakespeare countering with inspiring poetry ("The Contest"). In the heat of the battle, Ariadne appears to Dionysis. He calls a timeout and takes a moment to say a tender goodbye to his beloved. Inspired by Adriadne's words, Dionysis announces the final topic: Death. Shaw presents a stark interpretation of the subject from Saint Joan. Shakespeare counters with an impromptu song about the beauty of the natural cycle of life ("Fear No More"). Dionysis, moved by the great poet's words, declares Shakespeare the winner. A disbelieving Shaw is dragged offstage.

Xanthias returns with a very satisfied Virilla the Amazon to find that he is taking Shakespeare back to Earth instead of Shaw. Pluto doesn't want to lose Shakespeare, even for a moment, but eventually agrees. Shakespeare's not so sure that he wants to return to a world of suffering and grief, but Dionysis convinces him that he is desperately needed. They call for Charon and prepare to leave. Xanthias decides to stay in Hades for good, and they bid him farewell... for now.

As Dionysis and Shakespeare depart, Ariadne and the Dionysians serenade them ("Exodos"). Back on Earth, Shakespeare decides that what is needed is a new play – something to inspire mankind and raise them up. Dionysis and the Company encourage the audience to do their part – to shrug off complacency and take action – the world depends on them ("Final Instructions to the Audience"). It's time for a new start – no more froglike behavior! The actors' mission is complete.

Casting

Casting

Cast Size: Flexible Cast Size
Cast Type: Ensemble Cast
Dance Requirements: Standard

Character Breakdown

Dionysos
The god of theatre and wine. Loves mankind and wants to save them by bringing back his favorite author, George Bernard Shaw. Clever. A bit of a scaredy-cat.
Gender: male
Age: 30 to 50
Vocal range top: F5
Vocal range bottom: F3
Xanthias
Dionysos' lush servant, who loves the niceties of life even more than his master. A terrible servant, he begrudgingly goes with Dionysos to Hades.
Gender: male
Age: 25 to 35
Vocal range top: F5
Vocal range bottom: G3
Herakles
Dionysos' half-brother and a great hero. He is strong and masculine with a lavish sense of style and self-worth. Genial but beastly in strength, stature, and reputation.
Gender: male
Age: 35 to 45
Vocal range top: F5
Vocal range bottom: G3
Charon
The ancient navigator of the boat to Hades. The ultimate tour guide. He is corny, excessively happy, almost robotic in his rote touring dialogue. Always offering extra perks for extra money. A sleepy stoner.
Gender: male
Age: 60 to 75
Vocal range top: F5
Vocal range bottom: C4
Pluto
The flamboyant god of the underworld. He is a pretentious, flirty, pessimist who loves to be entertained and thinks that life only begins in the afterlife of the underworld.
Gender: male
Age: 45 to 60
Vocal range top: F5
Vocal range bottom: A3
Shaw
A pompous and famed playwright who thinks himself the best there ever was. Believes holding up a harsh mirror to society is the only way to evoke change.
Gender: male
Age: 50 to 65
Shakespeare
A regal and renowned playwright whose words not only appeal to the intellect, but also to the heart.
Gender: male
Age: 45 to 65
Vocal range top: D5
Vocal range bottom: F3
Ariadne
Dionysos' wife, who has tragically died. A beautiful and shy mortal. She loved and supported her husband in life with all of her heart.
Gender: female
Age: 25 to 45
Vocal range top: D5
Vocal range bottom: G3
Ensemble
Travelers; Frogs; Dionysians; Flame Girls; Shavians
Full Song List
The Frogs: Opening Fanfare
The Frogs: Invocation and Instructions to the Audience
The Frogs: I Love to Travel
The Frogs: Dress Big
The Frogs: I Love to Travel (Reprise)
The Frogs: All Aboard
The Frogs: On the River Styx
The Frogs: Ariadne
The Frogs: The Frogs
The Frogs: Hymn to Dionysos
The Frogs: Hades
The Frogs: It's Only a Play
The Frogs: Shaw
The Frogs: All Aboard (Reprise)
The Frogs: Fear No More
The Frogs: Hymn to Dionysos (Reprise)
The Frogs: Final Instructions to the Audience

Show History

Inspiration

The Frogs is based on the Ancient Greek play of the same name by Aristophanes.

Productions

The Frogs was first performed by the Yale Repertory Theatre in the Yale swimming pool for eight performances, beginning May 20, 1974. Burt Shevelove directed, with choreography by Carmen de Lavallade. Sondheim was becoming interested in contrapuntal writing, and most of the songs in the original 1974 version correspond to choral numbers in the Greek.

Critical Reaction

"Gleefully raiding from the bulging grab-bag of American musical-comedy tradition, Nathan Lane, Stephen Sondheim and Susan Stroman concoct a brash and breezy style covering everything from burlesque and vaudeville to Broadway extravaganza."
– Marilyn Stasio, "Variety"

Connect

Billing

A Comedy written in 405 B.C. by Aristophanes

Requirements

You must give the authors/creators billing credits, as specified in the Production Contract, in a conspicuous manner on the first page of credits in all programs and on houseboards, displays and in all other advertising announcements of any kind.
Percentages listed indicate required type size in relation to title size.
THE FROGS
 
A comedy written in 405 b.c. by
freely adapted by
even more freely adapted by
ARISTOPHANES
BURT SHEVELOVE
NATHAN LANE
Music and Lyrics by
STEPHEN SONDHEIM
 
original direction and choreography by
SUSAN STROMAN
 
Additionally, for all professional productions of the Play in the United States and Canada the following credit shall appear on the title page of all programs, in a size equal to 50% of the credit afforded to the Authors:

Originally produced by Lincoln Center Theater in 2004
New York City
 

Additionally, the following credit for use of certain lyrics from 'You Did It' from MY FAIR LADY shall appear in all programs for all productions of the Play licensed by MTI:
Excerpt from "You Did It" from MY FAIR LADY
MUSIC by FREDERICK LOEWE LYRICS by ALAN JAY LERNER
© 1956 (RENEWED) FREDERICK LOEWE and ALAN JAY LERNER
ALL RIGHTS ADMINISTERED by CHAPPELL & CO., INC.
The videotaping or other video or audio recording of this production is strictly prohibited

Included Materials

ItemQuantity Included
LIBRETTO/VOCAL BOOK20
PIANO VOCAL SCORE2

Production Resources

Resource
HOW DOES THE SHOW GO ON-10/CS
HOW DOES THE SHOW GO ON?
REFERENCE RECORDING
TRANSPOSITIONS-ON-DEMAND

STANDARD ORCHESTRATION

InstrumentationDoubling
BASS
CELLO
FULL SCORE ACT 1
FULL SCORE ACT 2
HARP
PERCUSSION
PIANO
REED 1
REED 2
REED 3
REED 4
TROMBONE
TROMBONE 2
TROMBONE 3
TRUMPET
TRUMPET 2
VIOLA
VIOLIN
VIOLIN 2