BWW Review: FREAKY FRIDAY Musical Hits Samppalinna's Summer Theater, a Scandinavian Premiere!
Freaky Friday. Mother and daughter swapping bodies. To me it reminds of the movie filmed in 2003, starred by Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis, which was my only reference to the title. Fortunately, from the show's program I was able to read more of its history and was surprised: it's based on a book published in 1972 and has been made into several films and now just a few years back into a musical! (The reasons why the mother and daughter swap places varies quite much depending on the version, so don't except a Chinese restaurant and fortune cookies on this one!)
On 27.6. I visited Samppa Linna's Summer Theater, where Freaky Friday, directed by Heikki Sankari, got its Scandinavian premiere just about a week earlier!
Ellie Blake (Linda Hämäläinen) dressed in pinky-black way resembling almost like Avril Lavigne, comes on stage and tells how we'll never believe her story. The hustle and bustle is on at the Blake's kitchen. Elli's mother Katarina Blake (Maria Lund) has her wedding coming the next day. Ellie would want to participate in her school's scavenger hunt (not in a band competition, folks), but Katarina refuses. The tensions and teenage angsts are on as the leading duo sing their first duet.
"If you knew what I go through... Walked a day in my own shoes..."
The show carries, without a doubt, an important message: "If you knew what I go through... Walked a day in my own shoes..." They sing to each other before the hourglass breakes and the show, in my opinion, gets properly started as Hämäläinen and Lund perform the switched roles and ages even better than their original ones!
The moving auditorium was a new thing to me and very exciting, especially when I realised it is able to turn 360 degrees instead of 90. A cool moment and transition that combined its moving and other choreographical elements too was when the Mokkapala (brownie) -ensemble strolled by it, by us, bowls and whisks in their hands, while we were moving into another scene. Very nice!
Another favorite moments I had during the show was the Oh, Biology -scene. The choreos from cutting to dancing by Sami Vartiainen were very good and the appearing heart of the frog was playful, having a symbolic element of the puppy-love, but also the actual examination of the frog, showed by theatrical means. The lyrics by Brian Yorkey, translated by Kristina and Jussi Vahvaselkä, also Heikki Sankari were very good in this, also in the Women and Sandwiches -part delivered by the active and alert Alen Nsambu who took on the role of admired and bossy Adam.
The costume design by Kaarina Kopola is colorful and the props by Sani Kiuru are gigantic so the people sitting at the back seats can see and enjoy as much as everyone else. The movements in groups are distinctively good and the parts where they sing in polyphonics are very beautiful! The all-around sets designed by Niina Suvitie and built by her, Juha Lindgren, Rauli Häkkilä, Sani Kiuru, Juuso Porekari and metals by Jaakko Rajala fit into the vibrant outlook of the story.
Another scene I got very moved by was the Parents Lie -scene, especially when the otherwise joyously hopping Fletcher (Mikael Setälä) now had his head sunken into his knees when he heard about all the things her sister-- now as his mother of course-- had learnt and told about. Uh oh! The cake scene and especially its ending that we saw quite early on was also hilarious as Maria Lund was especially jittery in it as a "teenager" out of control!
Some notable mentions of the actors were the eccentric Valtteri Lehtinen as Torrey whose movements and gestures were very good and flowy from the smallest to the biggest! The same kind of movement I enjoyed of I saw on Emilia Keskivinkka. Joonatan Perälä's Pastor Bruno to me was the top notch character in this play! He was very present and comedically on point with his small, ongoing expressions. More than two times I had to whisper to my avec in giggly awe how well Perälä performs!
All in all Freaky Friday at Samppalinna's Summer Theater is fresh and frisky. The rotating auditorium is quite an experience and through the story all of us can have a nostalgic trip to early-days school life and recall how the jumper that mom suggests to wear is to-tally NOT wearable.
Also, we can learn about acceptance and compassion.
... Though a little sad thing was how one of the stars, the little squirrel who ran throughout the audience, unfortunately didn't find his way on stage during the applauses Freaky Friday did deserve.
Article: Rosanna Liuski
Photos: Robert Seger