BWW Review: Valley Youth Theatre Presents FREAKY FRIDAY - Freaking Awesome!
There's an old (1970!) message song by Joe South ~ Walk a Mile in My Shoes ~ that opens with the lyrics, "If I could be you, if you could be me for just one hour, if we could find a way to get inside each other's mind; if you could see you through my eyes instead of your own ego, I believe you'd be surprised to see that you've been blind." I couldn't but help think of this verse after watching Valley Youth Theatre's production of FREAKY FRIDAY, a Disney-ish amplification of the humane benefits of role reversal.
Around the same time that South wrote his song, Mary Rodgers wrote the novel, FREAKY FRIDAY, (the vibes were obviously in the air!) that was adapted into two Disney films and inevitably a musical. What better way to engage a family audience in appreciating the value of empathy than to have a mother and daughter switch identities! The mirthful consequences of that magical twist yield loads of laughs and emotion and a good bit of a life lesson.
When Valley Youth Theatre's remarkably talented cast ~ led by the incomparable duo of 15-year old phenom Kate Brink as daughter Ellie and VYT alum Sarah Ambrose as her mom Katherine ~ takes to the stage, the audience becomes immersed in the other magic that has consistently been associated with the work of Producing Artistic Director Bobb Cooper.
In all the VYT shows that I've reviewed over the years, I've never failed to be dazzled by the performance quality of the company's young artists and the commitment to back them up with superior production effects. That was the case, once again, as I studied in awe the performances of the FREAKY FRIDAY cast.
Kate Brink is a powerhouse of talent, possessing that blend of theatrical skills that makes you believe that her name will someday be in lights. She shifts from the mannerisms of her teen character to those of her mother seemingly seamlessly with a confidence and air that become a pro. Sarah Ambrose performs her share of the shift with equal aplomb, assigning to her role a marvelous blend of elegance and comedic panache. The chemistry between the two is exhilarating.
FREAKY FRIDAY's storyline ~ it is the weekend of Katherine's everything-must-be-perfect second wedding when roles reverse ~ has family and teen subtexts that give ample opportunity for other shining performances ~ guest artist Chris Bradford as Katherine's fiancé, patiently working at a relationship with Ellie, who grieves still over the loss of her father; Asher Stubbs as little brother Fletcher, who communicates through puppets; Riley Thornton as the high school dreamboat and scavenger hunt master for whom Ellie has a huge crush; Alexis Archer as mean girl Savannah; and Jessica Fink as the frenzied sous chef whose carefully detailed wedding plans are at risk.
The fact is that the shine of the leads is amplified by the collective energy, versatility (playing multiple roles), and coordination of an assemblage of remarkable young talents each of whom deserves a round of enthusiastic applause ~ and so, here they are: Allie Angus. Allison Belsan. Ryan Breuer. Mackenzie Burcham. Dominic Cardenas. Ava Chaffee. David Devine. Shaylee Flanagan. Sam Goodykoontz. Preston Kersting. Stephanie Larson. Max Mendoza. Kylie Merrill. Anna Mettes. Rachel Nathan. Amelia Oliver. Anastasia Rai. Carson Roubison. Paige Maren Schmella. Jaden Schneider. Erin Deines Schumacher. Noah Simmons. Prescott Smidt. Olivia Smith. Justin Vaught. Jessica Wastchak. Ryley Youngs.
Kudos to guest artists Bennett Wood, Molly Jisa, and Mick Fink.
The Broadway quality of this show is the product too of the rich convergence of the orchestra under the direction of Tristan Peterson-Steinert; Nathalie Velasquez's choreography; Karol Cooper's costumes; Dori Brown's creative set design; lighting by Jeff A. Davis; and sound by Brian Honsberger. All elements weave together to forge one of the best productions ~ maybe the best! ~ of VYT's stellar history.
DISNEY'S FREAKY FRIDAY runs through June 30th at the Herberger Theater Center's Center Stage.
Photo credit to Memories by Candace