BWW Review: FREAKY FRIDAY at Des Moines Playhouse: Switching Places Never Seemed So Fun!
Did you ever wish you could trade places with your parents for them to see what life is like? Or have you wished you could switch places with your child so they can see just how difficult being a child is? If you can say yes to either of those questions, then Des Moines Playhouse has a production for you. "Freaky Friday" opened this last weekend as the opening to the Kate Goldman Children's Theatre 2019-2020 season.
If case you haven't seen the movie from 1976, 1995, 2003, or 2018 by the same name let me introduce you to this story. In this version, we have Ellie Black who wants to go on a local scavenger hunt with her two friends, but there's a problem. It lands on the day of her mom's rehearsal dinner for her wedding which she is planning and catering. Her mother, Katherine Blake says no and is frustrated with Ellie's growing teenage attitude. During an argument, both Katherine and Ellie grab an hourglass given to Ellie by her father before he died. What they don't realize, is that it is a magical hourglass, and when they wish the other could see what it's like to live their lives, the hourglass' magic is activated and switches their bodies. So Ellie is now in her mother's body and has to figure things out as her mother as well as Katherine in Ellie's body. One issue the hourglass broke after they switched bodies. Can they switch bodies before the wedding?
Usually, if you attend a Kate Goldman Children's Theatre show, it will be on the smaller Kate Goldman Stage, but for "Freaky Friday" the show is being done on the mainstage. Why the change? From what I could see, the main reasons were the choreography requirements and casting requirements to pull off the show. The choreography by Director/Choreographer Megan Helmers fills the entire stage and keeps the audience engaged in the story being told through the choreography.
The young cast brings an energy to the choreography that keeps it light and energetic. Another perk of being on the mainstage is the use of projections within the production. This was best on display during the song "Go" as it took the audience from place to place on the hunt.
One performance I have to give credit to is Ryan Henzi in the role of Fletcher. He stepped into the role on opening night when the person cast as Fletcher was sick and not able to be in the show then, or in the matinee when I attended on Saturday. Within less than 1 day, he learned the blocking of the show and was almost off book. He did a great job of bringing a charm to the character that an adult would find endearing, but a teenager would find annoying.
Growing up, I related more with the role of the teenage character in the movies. I think most people who grew up with the movie would say the same. In this production, the teenager, Ellie Blake, is played by Anastasia Deace. Her powerhouse voice was a perfect fit for the character. She did a great job of balancing when to go full voice or not. This balance was a perfect fit for "Biology" where her character started that life as a teenager might not be as easy as she thought.
One of the things that surprised me with this production was that I now identified more with the mother character. Taking on the role of the mother Katherine Blake is Chelsea Haaland. What impressed me most about her performance is how she was able to bring out her inner teenager after the switch. From the way she delivered her dialogue, to her posture to her mannerisms, she perfectly captured the essence of being a teenager. But there is also a heart to her character that we get to see at the top of act 2 during "Parents Lie," when she pours out her heart to her brother forgetting that he thinks she is her mom. The song showed a real vulnerability to the character that showed she was starting to understand the weight of the situation at hand.
While the character may have changed that I related to the most, I still had just as much fun with this story as I did growing up. This talented cast will make you wish you were up on the stage with them joining in the fun. "Freaky Friday" continues on the Mainstage of the Des Moines Playhouse through November 3. For more information, or to buy tickets, visit https://www.dmplayhouse.com/events/freaky-friday