Review by Doug Iden
Don’t freak out when a mother and a teenage daughter swap personalities by smashing a magic hourglass. Based on the novel by Mary Rodgers, the fantasy Freaky Friday, presented at Covedale though November 5, follows a mother and daughter through a frightening trek to figure out how to undo the freaky personality swap.
Plot and Characters
In the opening musical number “Just One Day,” the principal characters of mother Katherine (Sarah Cohen), daughter Ellie (Savanah Boyd), younger brother Fletcher (Dez Flynn Hutchens), new husband to be Mike (Sean Miller-Jones) and Ellie’s wannabe boyfriend Adam (Gabriel Kanai Nakata) are introduced. Mother Katherine, an efficient no-nonsense entrepreneur is a wedding planner planning her own marriage to Mike. She has the usual teenage spats with daughter Ellie when they fight over an hourglass that shatters on the ground. In the process, the personalities of the characters swap so Ellie now inhabits her mother’s body and vice versa. Confusion and mistaken identities abound as the two try to solve the dilemma and reconnect with their egos while continuing the wedding.
The solution may be finding a second magical hourglass which Katherine hocked to raise money. They could enlist Ellie’s high school friends–Gretchen (Elena Boyd) and Hannah (Karli Smith) to find the waylaid hourglass. In the meantime, Ellie (as the mother) copes with planning the wedding, being a mother to two children and dealing with a miscreant daughter. Katherine, as Ellie, must contend with teen boyfriend angst, school bullying, controlling teachers and more. Initially, neither of them fares well.
The audience must believe that the two characters can inhabit each other’s bodies and Cohen and Boyd do an excellent job. An example is when Adam confides in Katherine that he likes Ellie and Cohen goes all giddy, teenage girl and exclaims “yes.” Comic relief is supplied by Hutchins (Fletcher who also uses puppets) and Peyton Wright (as the long-suffering assistant Torrey).
The show is an interesting juxtaposition of reality and silliness. In one respect, the story is inane and sophomoric. Or, the show is profound by exploring characters who must view each other and the world through a different set of eyes. It is also about exploring and, if possible, repairing relationships. The super-efficient, pragmatic mother (in Ellie’s body) must adjust to teenage angst, insecurity, a quest for identity and the grief of her recently lost father. Ellie (in her mother’s body) must overcome teenage insularity and assume a leadership and parental role.
“Freaky Friday” Musical Highlights
There is a lot of music in the show with songs written by Tom Kitt and lyrics by Brian Yorkey. Both mother and daughter try to cope with “I Got This” and then discover some secrets in “Busted,” Mike wants to practice his “Vows” with a confused Katherine who later confesses to Ellie that “Parents Lie”. There are a number of production numbers including the reprise of “Just One Day”, “Somebody has Got To Take the Blame”. “Watch Your Back,” “Go” and “Today and Ev’ry Day,” In the back-to-back songs “After All of This and Everything” and “No More Fear,” Ellie and Katherine come to an accommodation with themselves and each other. The lyrics help tell the story while the music is effective but not memorable.
All the singers are good but the real highlights are the solos and duets of Cohen (Katherine) and Ellie (Savanah Boyd). Both singers are extraordinary but their duets convey doubt, confusion and, ultimately, self-realization. Miller-Jones (Mike), Nakata (Adam), Juno Brosas (Savanah) and Hutchins (Fletcher) also excel.
Director/Choreographer Genevieve Perrino has crafted an energetic show with a mixture of dances including hip-hop, a chase scene using smart phone lights and gymnastics. There is a lot of dancing.
Production Team for “Freaky Friday”
The static set design by Brett Bowling represents a chaotic cityscape of Chicago but, as usual, the props help the story but also aid in differentiation of the mother/daughter. Props include a kitchen, gym lockers, tables for the “Oh, Biology” scene, various cakes and foods and a replica of Buckingham Fountain complete with dragons. Technical Director and Light Designer Denny Reed creates some good illusions with the “magical” hourglass which glows from within, surreal lighting for Adam and the eventual retransformation of the lead characters. A variety of costumes designed by Beth Joos include standard teenage garb with obligatory backpacks, waiter’s uniforms, Adam’s suit, and Katherine’s dress. The pre-recorded music by Ted Baldwin is effective at a reasonable sound level.
Overall I liked it
I wasn’t sure about this show at first but quickly warmed to the overall production due primarily to the singing, dancing and acting abilities of Cohen and Boyd. The show is very energetic and entertaining with enough serious content to make it interesting and thought provoking. Over the last several years, I’ve noticed Landmark Productions is making a concerted effort to improve the overall quality of its shows, especially the singing and dancing. It is working.
Head to the Box Office
So, grab your alter-egos and wend your way to the Covedale Theater for Freaky Friday running through November 5. Covedale’s next production is White Christmas running from November 30 through December 23. Get your tickets HERE.