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BWW Review: Things Get Freaky at the Alley In FREAKY FRIDAY

BWW Review: Things Get Freaky at the Alley In FREAKY FRIDAY
Emma Hunton (left) and Heidi Blickenstaff
in Disney's FREAKY FRIDAY,
book by Bridget Carpenter,
music by Tom Kitt, lyrics by Brian Yorkey,
and directed by Christopher Ashley.
Photo by Jim Carmody

FREAKY FRIDAY, a new musical from Disney, is based on the 1976 original movie and 2003 remake of the same name. It's a simple premise. Career mother and teenage daughter don't get along. (Stop me if you've heard this one.) Mother, as her daughter sees it, is controlling, uptight, preoccupied and obsessed with rules. Daughter, from the mother's point of view, is sloppy, rebellious, and argumentative. They are both right.


Katherine (Heidi Blinkenstaff) is a success-driven single mother with a Martha Stewart-like catering business, and a reputation for flawless presentation. Appearance is everything, and she will sacrifice anything, including her family, to achieve it.

Ellie, her teenage daughter (Emma Hunton) resents her. (Again, if you've heard this....) Ellie's idea of style is a scrunchie and a plaid shirt.- usually tied around her waist. Katherine is coordinated from impeccable hair to impeccable toe. Katherine is svelte. Ellie is not. They fight. A lot.

After a number of years as a widow, Katherine has decided to re-marry, and her fiancé, Mike (David Jennings)) is the lucky man. Rounding out this little family is little brother Fletcher (Jake Heston Miller). Fletcher talks mostly to, and through, a couple of hand puppets, and has ambitions in show business. He's a little weird, but cute.

Then there's Torrey (Alet Taylor), Katherine's much put-upon assistant, who does most of the work, including the cooking, but that's a secret from her adoring public.

It's the eve of Katherine's wedding, and the rehearsal dinner is at hand, with everything being exquisitely arranged by Torrey.

During an argument over permission for Ellie to attend some big-deal school activity, a nighttime scavenger hunt (Did I mention this takes place in Chicago?) to which Katherine somewhat understandably objects, they really get into it, each screaming at the other that they wish they could change places for a day, with a rather clunky hourglass, and before you can say "Bibbity, Bobbity, Boo" they do. Katherine winds up in Ellie's body; Ellie in hers.

Upon this rather flimsy premise hangs the rest of the tale, with misadventures, misunderstandings and mishaps galore. Along the way we meet several of Ellie's school friends, including Adam (Chris Ramirez), her serious crush, arch-rival and mean girl Savannah (Jessie Hooker), plus assorted classmates and teachers in the ensemble.

The show is bright, breezy and colorful, with some really good performances. The flavor is decidedly bubblegum, but it's the kind of thing Disney does well. The opening night house was filled with teens and pre-teens who were thoroughly enjoying themselves, and why not? There's plenty of time for Strindberg when they grow up.

In the end, both Katherine and Ellie learn something about themselves and each other, and all's well that ends.

I do have one quibble, however. In the ensemble is a character that we pretty much understand is gay. You know, "gay"? Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. He may have a couple of lines, but mainly, he dances, but a little too much on his toes, if you get my drift. The audience did, and frankly, I enjoyed the character, but he was played strictly for laughs, and at him, not with him. I felt a little uncomfortable with that, and it sent the wrong message to the young audience. It's 2017; aren't we past that yet?

The book, by Bridget Carpenter, brings the story nicely up-to-date without sacrificing the light-heartedfantasy of the movies, and the cast is young, energetic and committed. Blinkenstaff has a big, belting Broadway voice, and her duets with Hunton ring out into the rafters.

Music by Tom Kitt and lyrics by Brian Yorkey are serviceable enough, but none of the tunes make it past the parking garage.

FREAKY FRIDAY

Alley Theatre

June 2 - July 2, 2017

For tickets: www.houston-theater.com/FreakyFriday/AlleyTheatre‎or call (844) 321-979


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From This Author Gary Laird

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