LOGAN — Freaky Friday is a musical, with music by Tom Kitt, lyrics by Brian Yorkey, and a script by Bridget Carpenter. Unlike a lot of popular summer festival shows, this show never had a Broadway run. However, it has been a pretty big hit around the Utah theatres, with a good opportunity to incorporate several cast members of varying ages and a familiar story that has had not one but four(!) film adaptations, including a very current one on Disney+ that includes the music from this score.
The stage version of Freaky Friday follows Ellie Blake (played at Lyric by Grace Garner) as she tells the audience about the worst day of her life, involving her mother, Katherine (played by Lacy J. Dunn). Ellie belongs a family that lacks some serious empathy that can only be learned by a literal walking in one another’s shoes.
Directed by Jason Spelbring, there is a lot to enjoy about this fun and frivolous production. The first thing I noticed when we walked into the Morgan Theatre is the projection design by Joshua Legate. The show is set in Chicago, and Legate’s projects treats the audience to sites from the magnificent mile and Chicago landmarks. These projections were incorporated with even more flair during a fun song in the middle of act two, “Go”, in which heartthrob Adam (played by Preston Rowland) gets students to run around the city hunting for clues. Having spent a year of my life living in the Windy City, I recognized a lot of the areas and really enjoyed this touch, something I had not seen done in similar productions.
I really enjoyed the costumes by designer Daniel Carter. However, I was underwhelmed by Ellie’s costume because I feel like it has a specific contribution to the story that was missing. Ellie is supposed to be annoying her mother by her lack of trying in her appearance, and her “almost grunge” look. But this Ellie was in a quite nice sweater and pair of jeans. My own teen who had attended the show with me was in a torn shirt, Converse shoes that were drawn on, and hair in her face in a the way that the script mentioned in the first scene. Katherine herself is in jeans, a t-shirt, a blazer, and scarf, and so the difference between the two is not even enough to be considered a full contrast. This is not the first time I have seen a production of Freaky Friday where they miss this key element and it misses the dynamic.
Vocally, the show was impeccable. Dunn and Garner were matched quite well, and their duet “I Got This” in the first act was a great introduction to their musical prowess. Music director Lawrence Laureano is phenomenal in getting the full cast harmonize well and keep up the energy to build the story with the music. Dunn is impressive in the song “What You Got,” as she is able to show the complications of her character not understanding what Katherine does or how she sees her daughter. The reverse realization, with Katherine appreciating her own daughter, is also well executed, thanks to Garner’s emotional performance in the song “Parents Lie.”
The side characters, such as Fletcher (played by Soren Pedersen), add some appreciated comic relief, especially when paired with Rowland’s Adam for the fun “Women and Sandwiches” number in the second act. Pedersen can hold his own as the youngest player in the production. Unfortunately, there were some sound system issues that did make it difficult at times to hear him, which was frustrating.
Choreography by Kelly McGaw was fun but also slightly underwhelming. The cast was small, and so there was plenty of room for movement on stage; I would have liked to have seen more of that space utilized. Much of the show is fast paced, and many songs serve the purpose of moving the plot forward. McGaw showed in the song “Oh Biology” that she can create energetic, exciting choreography, which made songs like “Busted” disappoint.
Overall, the Lyric Repertory Company production of Freaky Friday is pretty fun and creative, and the Lyric team does a fine job delivering a satisfactory production. The small shortcomings that the production did have did not diminish its charm. The show is a fun way to spend an evening, for both kids and parents.