Maybe having one of its lead actors jump ship two days before the opening of "A Year With Frog and Toad" was just the thing that the production needed.

For instead of leaving "Frog and Toad" in a lurch, it seemed to have sparked the five-member acting ensemble and the Victor Zupanc-led band. They deliver a swimmingly beautiful production at the Children's Theatre Company, where the show opened Saturday.

John-Michael Zuerlein and Reed Sigmund invest the title characters with wit, verve and surplus charm. A veteran actor who was a headliner at Chanhassen Dinner Theatre's "Mamma Mia!," Zuerlein replaced Jay Goede, who originated the role of Frog and played it on Broadway. Zuerlein is understated and humorously contained as Toad's stable friend. His warmth and empathetic understanding sets the character in sharp relief to Sigmund's Toad, who wears all his worries, and they are legion, on his skin.

Sigmund plumbs the physical, emotional and mental unease with emphatic skill, and hits all the right notes. Together, they are glibly entertaining as the unlikely friends go through four fussy seasons.

At the outset, Toad's clock is broken, so Frog cleverly helps him to come out of hibernation early. Come spring, Toad gardens but, owing to his constitution and his broken clock, he gets impatient, and shouts at his seeds to grow. He even reads bad poetry and does an interpretive dance.

The friends swim in the summer and rake leaves in the fall. By winter, it's time to go sledding, with hiccups and setbacks all along the way.

Brothers Robert and Willie Reale adapted this musical from the children's stories of Arnold Lobel, crafting clever jazz numbers that nod to the classic Broadway songbook and to the vocalese of groups like the Manhattan Transfer. There's also the wannabe cowboy anthem for the Snail with the mail.

Director Peter Brosius' revival is substantially the same as the one that David Petrarca directed in 2002, when the show premiered in Minneapolis before going to Broadway. He uses Adrianne Lobel's elegant original swamp-world scenography. And the costumes, by the late Tony-winning designer Martin Pakledinaz, similarly nod to a natty, bow-tied world.

But Brosius has sharpened the humor with lots of little things. He and his team also are keen to make sure that this work comports with our more evolved mores. To wit, they artfully banish any whiff of fat-shaming in "Getta Load a Toad," which is about the amphibian looking funny in a bathing suit. The costume is oversized and ill-fitting as it drapes loosely over Toad's frame so the focus remains on the suit, not the body.

Ultimately, it's the performances that make this "Frog and Toad" such a joy, and the production benefits mightily from the three dynamos who play the snazzy birds — Becca Claire Hart, Ryan London Levin and Janely Rodriguez — and all the other roles in the show.

Hart is downright peckish in the avian role, comically articulating her neck with a crispness that matches her diction in other roles such as the sneering Turtle and the neglectful Mother Frog. Levin also strokes the funny bone in his turns, but especially as the wanna-be-rootin'-tootin' Snail with the mail. And Rodriguez earns kudos and laughs for her Squirrel and Mole and terrified young Frog.

After "Frog and Toad" premiered, CTC won the regional Tony in 2003. This revival serves a similarly august marker as the capstone production for Brosius' 27-year tenure at the company.

It's a fittingly entertaining tribute to his youthful joy and his belief in the virtues of friendship.

'A Year With Frog and Toad'

Who: Adapted from the children's books of Arnold Lobel. Music and lyrics by Robert and Willie Reale. Directed by Peter Brosius.

Where: Children's Theatre Company, 2400 3rd Av. S., Mpls.

When: 7 p.m. Thu.-Fri., 11 a.m. & 2 p.m. Sat., 2 & 5 p.m. Sun. Ends June 16.

Tickets: $15-$87. 612-874-0400,