Anna Holloway Review: Freakin’ good 'Freaky Friday' at Lyric
Lyric’s Summer at the Civic Center opened this week with Disney’s fourth adaptation of the 1972 children’s book “Freaky Friday” by Mary Rodgers. With music and lyrics by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, and book by Bridget Carpenter, this version of the story of family alienation and restoration is another step in the evolution, deriving mostly from the 2003 film.
Although the stories differ somewhat, the theme of all three Disney films, the original novel and the musical is that standing in someone else’s shoes can help to foster understanding and reveal the love that is already there.
Directed by Michael Baron, with choreography by Amy Reynolds Reed and music direction by Jan McDaniel, this production hit all the right notes. The dance elements were stylized extensions of natural movement, blending in and out of the story seamlessly, and the talented cast executed the music and dance well.
The two leading ladies, who ‘switch’ bodies in the course of the story, were played by Jennifer Teel and Celeste Rose. Teel was the uptight mom, Kate, and Rose was her awkward and undisciplined 17-year-old daughter, Ellie, — at least to start with. Early in the story, due to their own antagonism toward one another and assisted by a magic hourglass, Kate and Ellie switch bodies, leaving Teel to play the teenager and Rose to play the mom—both of whom have to pretend to be the other because they can’t explain the truth.
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- Video: Lyric Theatre: Freaky Friday
In the course of the switch, the hourglass has been broken, but it was one of a pair and they have some clues about where the other one might be. Dodging Kate’s fiancé, Ellie has to navigate "grown up" waters and Kate has to deal with school and teen issues she never had to face when she was younger—all while they try to find the other hourglass.
Teel and Rose both completely sold the switch. Each actress created a body language and vocal tone unique to the character—and then completely and believably took on the attributes of the other. Essentially, they each played the same two characters in turn, and each sang and moved like the other, which demonstrated a considerable level of skill and artistry.
Fletcher, the 10-year-old son and brother of the switched women, was played with snarky winsomeness by Noah Waggoner, and Kate’s fiancé, Mike, was played with genial paternity by Mateja Govich. The high school heartthrob, Adam, who has his own two-note theme song, provided an interesting ethical presence and served as a big brother adviser to Fletcher in a moment of need; the role was delivered strongly, and laudably without caricature, by Sean Watkinson.
The ensemble delivered the supporting roles very well; they were especially useful for creating the chaos of Ellie’s high school environment. Standouts included Kate’s parents (Barbara Fox DeMaio and Stephen Hilton), in town for Kate and Mike’s wedding; both were delightful and rather gentle caricatures of loving and slightly obnoxious grandparents. Ellie’s nemesis, Savannah (Madison Hamilton), offered just the right amount of arrogance and edge.
Scenic designer Katie Sullivan created an extraordinary background; the sparkly crystals of the magic hourglass were enlarged and echoed in the flexible set pieces that provided location or backdrop or both at the turn of a box. Properties designer Courtney Strong contributed valuable elements to the locations that actors used to emphasize the character switch. Jeffrey Meek’s costumes appeared as if they came out of the character’s closets; they were so natural to the roles that they didn’t feel like costumes. Lighting in this production is a key story element; as usual, designer Helen Kuukka has delivered effective and specific environments and effects with light and color. Sound designer Anthony Risi has contributed to the scenic atmospheres with artistic subtlety.
Michael Baron routinely pulls together a talented group of artists and guides them to beautiful and artful productions. Lyric’s production runs at the Civic Center Music Hall through Sunday, July 1. For tickets, and to check out the rest of the Lyric Summer season, call 405-524-9312 or go to LyricTheatreOKC.org.