BWW Review: FREAKY FRIDAY at Hale Centre Theatre is Fantastic
Disney's FREAKY FRIDAY on Hale Centre Theatre's Jewel Box Stage is filled with fantastic music and anchored by fabulous performances.
FREAKY FRIDAY (book by Bridget Carpenter, music by Tom Kitt, lyrics by Brian Yorkey) is based on the novel by Mary Rodgers and the favorite Disney films (1976, 1995, and 2003). The stage musical was in turn adapted into an enjoyable Disney Channel movie in 2018. The ear-wormy score from the composer and lyricist of NEXT TO NORMAL contains many gems, including upbeat pop numbers and emotional character songs.
Katherine Blake, who is stressed catering her own wedding and making it picture perfect for a potential magazine spread, is frustrated with her daughter, Ellie, who is sullen and sloppy but equally frustrated with her mom for her lack of empathy. When they unexpectedly and mysteriously switch bodies the day before the wedding, they have to learn to walk in each other's shoes for a day until they can figure out how to switch back.
Scout Smith as Ellie (double cast with Bailee Johnson) and Bailee Morris as Katherine (double cast with Korianne Orton Johnson) carry the weight of the show on their shoulders with great success. Acting-wise, they do a fabulous job of inhabiting each other's bodies, and their vocals are unassailable across a range of musical styles. Smith's voice is clear and cutting in angst-filled songs like "Oh, Biology," and Morris' voice is achingly beautiful in ballads such as "After All of This and Everything." Because their voice types are so dissimilar, the illusion of their swap is slightly hampered throughout the show. However, individually they are spectacular.
Other memorable performances come from Blake Burnham as Fletcher (double cast with Tony Worland), Jason Baldwin as Mike (double cast with Neal C. Johnson), and Abrin Tinney as Adam (double cast with Zack Elzey).
The ensemble is sometimes a bit uneven, but it shines in many instances, and especially in the dance numbers. The outstanding contemporary choreography by Cory Stephens is fresh and refreshing, elevating each scene in which it's incorporated.
The colorful, abstract set by Jennifer Stapley Taylor and lighting by Danna Barney complement one another and serve the story well. Michelle Jensen also deserves kudos for the realistic props she designed and gathered.
The sound, though designed well, was impeded the night of the reviewed performance by several missed cues throughout the show. This aspect will surely improve over time.
It is a treat for Hale Centre Theatre to produce another show that hasn't already been seen in Utah on national tour, and especially a contemporary musical set in the present. FREAKY FRIDAY is well worth the effort to see.
FREAKY FRIDAY plays through August 24, 2019. For tickets, call the box office at 801-984-9000 or visit www.hct.org.
Photo Credit: L-R Scout Smith (Ellie) and Bailee Morris (Katherine)