FREAKY FRIDAY Comes to The Round Barn Theatre
In the musical "Freaky Friday" the plot's main twist, a mother and a daughter magically switching bodies, is a nightmare for the characters, but a dream come true for the actors! Imagine -- establishing one character then getting to switch with a fellow actor and playing a totally different character.
The thing is, Megan Arrington, who plays teenage daughter Ellie, and Sara Jane Mullins, whose mom Katherine, are so wonderfully good at this! Mullins demonstrates this in the number "Vows." It's the day before Katherine's wedding, only it's daughter Ellie inside that middle-aged body, so when Travis Bird, who plays her fiancé Mike, matchlessly expresses the depth of his love in the tender vows he's written for the occasion (Bird is wonderful at this sort of thing) Mullins portrays Ellie's absolutely awkward agony at finding herself in his arms without letting him see what she's going through. After awhile you forget Mullins is an adult, not a teenager. Then there's the bitter revelations of "Parents Lie," and the growth that comes with the agony when her brother, alienated from his mother who's really his sister, runs away.
But I expect Mullins, an experienced actor with a proven track record, to pull off this sort of thing. I hadn't seen Arrington before and she's a match for Mullins. Having established her teen-aged persona, she quickly becomes the adult of the film. I loved her look of annoyed surprise in "Oh, Biology" when the adult Katherine inside rediscovers what it means to be a slave of all those hormones! And in the same subplot about little brother's flight it's fun to watch Arrington's attempt to keep her identities straight when she pleads with the police officers who ignore her as inconsequential in "Bring My Baby (Brother) Home."
But this is not a two person show. There are fifteen other actors involved in a host of scene, costume, and character changes in what is a frantic, frenzied, and farcical fast-paced night at the Round Barn Theatre.
Welcome to Freaky Friday! Based on the book by Mary Rodgers and the two Disney films, this musical is a must-see. It is the first to use the new projection system, and it is utilized to good effect in establishing locale, without being distracting. There were so many wonderful things going on that it was impossible to keep write all of them down, so you'll excuse me if I share only a few impressions of what is a uniformly wonderful cast.
There's Adam Silorey's specialty of cringe worthy characters, including the well-meaning minister and the gym teacher who didn't get the memo about skintight shirts and short-shorts.
Dave Kempher in the course of playing several roles managers to add thirty-five years when he changes costume, playing Katherine's dad humorously, but with integrity and authenticity.
Erin Ames delights as the little brother Fletcher, whose two-fisted, well, two-puppeted dreams are as big as they are fragile.
Karter Dolan walks a tightrope in portraying the Disney archetype confident, handsome love interest of the heroine as a real human being, instead of being cloyingly perfect.
Jamile Hunter was immediately memorable in everything from journalist, gym teacher, and Chicago-style cop.
Loved Anna Wentworth's total meltdown and even more dramatic recovery as the factotum Torrey, and Katherine Searcy with Bonnie McGowan as Ellie's mildly skeptical if mostly faithful sidekicks.
Kudos to Jerry O'Boyle, who is not just the sure-handed Director, but also a juggler. Kudos also to Managing Artistic Director Ryan Schisler, Stage Manager Angie Nortz, Choreographer Matty Reda, Costume Designer Jennifer Medich, Music Director Heidi Ferris, and Richard Pletcher the set designer, and of course the entire cast for juggling all the elements of a complex show without losing sight of either its heart or its joy.
This musical exemplifies the theme for the 2019 season at the Round Barn, Metamorphosis. Walking a mile, or around forty hours, in another person's shoes teaches love and understanding. The blended family portrayed in the show is, like all families blended or otherwise, a work in progress, and that's not a bad thing.
It's a show that mothers and daughters, nay, families, should see together, not because it's "safe and sweet," but because it's gritty and true. In the end love triumphs not because it's cute and cuddly but because love varies not with its brief hours and weeks, but bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
So bring kids!
The Round Barn Theatre at Amish Acres presents "Freaky Friday," Music by Tom Kitt, Lyrics by Brian Yorkey, Book by Bridget Carpenter, Based on the Novel Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers and the Disney films, May 24 through July 14 (American Sign Language Performance June 15 at 8:00 PM). Presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). For subscriptions, reservations and information call 800-800-4942 or go to amishacres.com