Disney has a new musical and it’s everything one would expect, a feel-good show that charms and delights at all ages.
Based on Mary Roger’s classic novel, “Freaky Friday” tells the relatable story of a mother-daughter pair who have a hard time understanding one another. That is until a freaky encounter leads to them switching bodies and in turn perspectives. With Katherine’s wedding coming up, the pair races to find a solution but not before stumbling through a day in the other’s life. Will they be able to pull the switch off in time for the big day? Make your way over to the Signature Theatre to find out, this musical will not disappoint.
…”Freaky Friday” is everything a musical could and should be.
Perhaps Disney’s greatest feat as a producer is its ability to cultivate talent. The creative team, Bridget Carpenter (Parenthood, Friday Night Lights), Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey (If/Then, Next to Normal) along with Broadway veterans Christopher Ashley and Sergio Trujillo in combination with a brilliant cast, account for much of the show’s success.
“Freaky Friday” is a comedic delight that packs an equal amount of tenderness and heart. Carpenter, whose previous work explores familial relations, brings to life a mother and daughter duo who feel genuine and authentic. The book is lighthearted and yet impactful with a strong message of love and understanding. One of the more powerful moments in the show is when Katherine (as Ellie) declares to her self-conscious teenage peers that they are beautiful. On the night I saw it, the audience roared in agreement.
The show transitions from scene to scene seamlessly, a testament to the writing as much as to the music. Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey succeed once again providing music and lyrics that are clever and catchy. Don’t be surprised if by the end of the night you have the songs stuck in your head. My only complaint is that there is no cast recording available yet to remedy this. Something that may soon change as the show makes its way to various theatres around the country.
The music and writing are carried out by an incredible cast and talented ensemble. Heidi Blickenstaff (Something Rotten, Disney’s Little Mermaid) and Emma Hunton (Wicked, Spring Awakening) shine as the mother-daughter duo. It might not be easy playing a character trapped inside of another character but Blickenstaff and Hunton pull of the switch remarkably well. Blickenstaff has an exceptional knack for comedic timing, commanding the attention of the audience in every moment. There were multiple points throughout the show when the cast had to hold for laughs. Hunton holds her own next to Blickenstaff and is equally as charming.
The show’s design works well to tell the story. Emily Rebholz’s costumes, clearly targeted towards the millennial generation, feel contemporary and authentic. The set, simple yet multi-functional, supports the story as the show transitions back and forth between school and home quite frequently. Not a musical with big showy dance numbers, the choreography is nonetheless exceptional and noteworthy. Particularly entertaining was the gym class scene “Watch Your Back.” An intensive number that due to its creative use of yoga balls flirts with being over the top yet somehow works, pulling a great deal of laughter from the audience.
In total, “Freaky Friday” is everything a musical could and should be. The show has the ability to move the audience to laughter in one moment and tears the next, sending them off with a euphoric sense of delight that only good theatre has the power to accomplish.
Running Time: Two hours and 10 minutes long, with one intermission.
“Freaky Friday” plays through November 20 at Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington, Virginia 22206. For tickets, call the box office at 202.820.9771, or purchase them here online.