OGDEN — After 13 months away and a remodel to the outside and parts of the inside, Terrace Plaza Playhouse in Washington Terrace has reopened its doors with Disney’s musical adaptation of Freaky Friday, with music and lyrics by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey and book by Bridget Carpenter, the story follows a mother and daughter who are frustrated with each other not understanding the difficulties of their respective lives: a single mom about to get remarried and planning her own wedding; and a teenager facing the difficulties of teenage life. Through a freak accident involving an hourglass, chaos ensues when both are forced to see just how hard it is to spend “just one day” in the life of another.
Directed by Leslie Richards, the production I saw was headlined by the awesome cast of this double-casted show, and I had plenty to be impressed about for the return of the well-loved community theatre. With music direction by Whitney Cahoon, choreography by Ginny Spencer, set design by Leslie Richards and Morgan Richards, costume design by Jamila Lowe and Jim Tatton, and lighting and sound by Miland Palmer and Mark Ellis, the technical elements of this show were fun and interesting. The cast had a musically strong adult cast, but for the first time at Terrace Plaza I found myself wishing for a few more people in the teenage cast. I assume part of this lack of a full teenage cast is because of the return after a COVID break; however, there are certain parts in the musical score, such as when the character Adam, played by the fantastic Austin Boonchan, comes on stage and the cast sings out “Adam,” that could have been much more full and loud. The harmonies were great, and all of the solos were strong, so the music really was on point. There were just small moments that could have been more rounded out if the cast had been a little more full like the Terrace is used to having.
Costuming for Freaky Friday can seem deceptively easy, because it is set as a modern day show, but there are small nuances that make the show slightly more interesting. Maren Messerly as Ellie had a strong voice, good timing, and great chemistry with Terresa Shreve as Ellie’s mother, Katherine. However, is it possible to say that someone came off as possibly too attractive for the role? One of the opening lines is Katherine pointing out how an audience member is lovely and made an effort to look good and that Ellie has not made such an effort. However, Messerly looked like a teen who had in fact made an effort, in contrast to my own teen who had come to the show after a nap with a blanket over her, yesterday’s makeup, and probably yesterday’s clothes (she said I could say that). While Ellie may have in fact been the prettiest girl in school, it is the costuming and presentation that makes the look and those lines hit better and then makes scenes where the switch of the primping mom and lazy daughter more comical. However, she did nail what it must be like to be a 42-year-old in the body of a teenager. One of the best parts of the show was the song, “Oh Biology,” where Messerly’s fantastic voice combined so well with the choreography that it was definitely a highlight.
Shreve as Katherine did a fine job portraying what it must feel like to suddenly be a teenager in the body of a 42-year-old. One of the challenges of this production is to make it believable that this switch is actually an exchange of personalities, and Shreve and Messerly both succeeded. Shreve brought strong emotions to the song, “Parents Lie,” and yes, I may have cried a little.
Stealing the show in this production was Jamie Balaich as the slightly neurotic assistant Torrey. How many of us have been that person at work that does all the work and gets none of the credit? Watching Balaich personify that role on stage was humorous and refreshing. It has often happened to me that all I want is a little acknowledgment, and then I go on doing the extra ten thousand miles to keep the work going as much as I possibly can.
I will take just a moment to say that as the pandemic hit, many theatres in the area were left with thoughts of, “what now?” Terrace Plaza took the time to remodel their façade, repaint and carpet, and work with local city and private donors to create a more beautiful location for performers and theatre goers alike. I could see excitement in cast, crew, and attendees on the opening night of the production, and I felt glad that there had been a good use of time during the time off. It has been a long, hard year for the arts, and it was nice to be back in the seats of the Terrace again.