HERRIMAN — Every year the summer show produced by the Herriman Arts Council is full of great talent, and this year’s Freaky Friday is no exception.
Freaky Friday (with a book by Bridget Carpenter based on a novel by Mary Rodgers, music by Tom Kitt, and lyrics by Brian Yorkey) tells the story of teenage girl Ellie Blake in her junior year of high school and her mom, Katherine. They are both struggling from the death of Ellie’s father four years previously, and though the mom has decided to re-marry, they both cope in their own ways and have little understanding for each other. However, a magical hourglass switches them into each other’s bodies, and mom and daughter are left reeling in a role neither of them can handle well. As they spend one day in each other’s lives, they are able to find empathy and understanding and eventually work together to undo the switch. It was a very touching story with valuable life lessons throughout.
Jenna Ahlmam skillfully directed this show. I loved her addition of having the siblings fight around the kitchen counter, first running quickly around and then in slow motion while other characters had a moment. I also thought the slow motion scene with Ellie (with her mom’s mind) playing tug of war with the popular girl was hilarious because she kept having Ellie break off and sing to the audience while the other girl kept pulling as if she was still there. I also liked how she had Adam, the most popular guy at school, performed some “show off” moves periodically, like when he turns his back to the audience and swings his jacket above his head while swaying hips. Ahlmam was also superb at directing the two main characters, Ellie (played by Liz Nielsen), and her mom Katherine (played by Megan Midgley) into looking and sounding like each other after switching roles. That was a magical thing to see.
Yet, there were a couple things that I thought did not quite work or were timed strangely, like when Ellie (in her mother’s body, and so played by Midgley) was leaning away from her mother’s fiancé in fear much sooner than it seemed he was planning to kiss her. I also was immediately concerned upon seeing Nielsen cast as a teenager when she looked much older, and it seemed like they had plenty of actual teenagers in the cast who could have played the role. I think to help show the age difference, Nielsen could have had no lipstick, or maybe a different color than bright red.
Nielsen and Midgley were great actresses, and wonderful singers, and I thoroughly enjoyed their performances. Their ability to switch roles and change their whole persona was believable and fun to watch. During the biology song, Katherine (in her daughter’s body, and so played by Nielsen) acts giddy sitting next to the dreamy Adam and keeps stopping herself mid-smile. Then when the son is lost, she turns anal and irritates everyone trying to find her son while they all see her as an obnoxious teen and do not take her seriously. Meanwhile, Midgley is pulling off all the best lines ever as a teen in her mom’s body, saying stuff like “Oh, I’m the mom. I have to clean up,” and “I ignore my kids,” with all the sarcasm to fit. I loved Midgley’s general demeanor when she took on the teenage personality, slouching, laying across the couch instead of sitting on it, making snarky remarks so seamlessly.
I enjoyed the large multi-level set designed by Tavnir Carey and various painted backdrops as well. I loved the squiggly lines across everything, making it look messy, but at the same time an organized mess. There were a few set pieces that rolled out or were placed in front, like the living room chairs, that gave the scene more depth. My favorite set was the classroom with the big blackboard that said “Frog Dissection Today,” and all the tables and chairs that made it up.
The live orchestra was a treat. Marie Buhler was the orchestra director, and everything song sounded so smooth that I forgot the musicians were there. They had the perfect volume to keep the focus on the actors and great timing with each scene and sound effects. I appreciated their skill and was glad to have the chance to see them up close as they performed.
The ensemble did a great job, and I enjoyed all of Ahlmam’s choreography. I especially liked the dance for the song “What You Got.” All the added choreography for Adam (played by Benjamin Tate) was hilarious, and even had specific music to go along with it. Tate acted just like a kid from High School Musical, and it was fun to see a local teen perform the role as well as a professional actor would). He had a fun song with Fletcher (played by Brax Zuniga), called “Women and Sandwiches,” that was endearing. Zuniga was great in his role too and did the “annoying little brother tidbits” while also sharing his wants and wishes for happiness.
Freaky Friday was a fun show to see on a Thursday night, and lasted almost three hours from (8:00 to 10:43 PM). The cast, production crew, and orchestra made everything entertaining and enjoyable. Herriman’s Freaky Friday is a great choice for a night of summer fun.