Bryan Mercer gives a ribbiting performance in “A Year with Frog and Toad”
By Jessica Fondo
When Bryan Mercer was a student at Vangaurd High School in Ocala, he auditioned for “Godspell” on a dare.
Since then, he’s lived in New York and Atlanta, working as an actor and musical director, composer and teacher. He prefers central Florida over those larger cities for its abundance of trees and moss.
Currently, he is channeling his Florida roots and love for the swamp as Frog in “A Year with Frog and Toad” at the Hippodrome Theatre, now on the Mainstage.
Mercer started working at the Hippodrome as a musical director in 2006, beginning with “The Great American Trailer Park Musical.” His first acting role at the theatre was not until in 2015 in “Mr. Burns: A Post-electric Play.” Now, he a company member at the Hippodrome and calls it his home theatre.
“Some of my best roles, some of my best work has been down here,” he said. “This has a community, a village to support this amazing place. It’s everything I want.”
Throughout his career, Mercer has played leading love interests, drag characters and monsters. Among them all, he said Frog is the closest role to himself he has ever played. Mercer said he relates to Frog’s his joy for music and harmony and understanding of nature and stillness.
“I am very much of a frog. I must have moss and water and springs and trails.”
This is Mercer’s fifth time playing the role. This time, Frog is older, wiser, simpler and more kind, he said.
“He’s made friends with his problems, his emotions, his past and his future.”
Friendships are serious relationships, and Frog honors them in a way audiences can admire, Mercer said. In Frog’s ballad, “Alone,” he explains gently to toad that because of their friendship, he is not alone.
“That’s the most beautiful thing about the production,” he said. “Frog is a character that’s learned, no, nothing in life is exactly as we wish,” Mercer said. “No friend is perfect. If we are to have friends, if we are to have relationships, we must accept them unconditionally for what they are.”
Ultimately, Mercer said he hopes the audience finds kindness, gentleness and healing in “A Year with Frog and Toad.”
“When’s the last time you can say you went to the theatre and felt better about yourself? Or had hope for the future? Or made you want to do something nice? Or hug your parents just a little extra longer?”
For reservations, call 352-375-4477 or visit thehipp.org/holidayshows.