Published June 28, 2018 | By Adrienne Proctor
Disney’s Freaky Friday offers a new concept for Disney and the theatre. Directed at older audiences than many of their formulaic stage musicals, Freaky Friday aims its sights at tweens and up. It’s based on the popular novels and movies of the same name. Freaky Friday features a mother-daughter team who switch bodies thanks to some lessons that must be learned and that necessary ingredient- Disney Magic. With only one day before the mother’s wedding, and just before the daughter needs to pass the 11th grade, there’s little time for such a mess.
Cue the antics as Lyric Theatre sets off on its Summer at the Civic Series, a wild three-show ride that starts this week and concludes in late July. Only one of two theatres in the country granted rights to produce Freaky Friday, Lyric is entering new territory and tackling the task with aplomb.
Jennifer Teel and Celeste Rose are the powerhouse duo who lead this dynamite show, and they’re backed by a supporting cast that is equally energetic. Teel plays Katherine, the sharply wound bride to be and Mother who does it all. Rose is her teenaged daughter Ellie and is every bit her opposite. Minutes into Act I, the tides turn as the actresses are now playing each other. Teel is a force, with a commanding singing voice. There are nearly thirty musical numbers in the show, and much of the narrative is provided via song. Teel is effective. She sets the bar high early on.
Celeste Rose begins as a bratty teenager and immediately becomes the one in charge, only as a mom trapped in her daughter’s body possibly could. Rose is poised and controlled, while gradually letting loose as she realizes she’s young all over again. Together, Rose and Teel create a two-woman act that could carry on for hours and nobody would mind. They’re captivating and lovely, the very best Disney and the Lyric have to offer.
An impressive feat is how their mannerisms change. Teel is at first upright and put together, then, as she becomes the daughter, she’s throwing her hair down and slouching in her pantsuit. Likewise, Rose enters the stage as a standoffish young lady with a chip on her shoulder. The moment the switch happens, she becomes her Mother to a point. Her words and actions get crisper and bolder. It’s important to keep the audience from getting confused as to who’s who, and Teel and Rose pull it off perfectly.
Stand-out performances are given by several of the supporting cast members. Noah Waggoner is young Fletcher, Ellie’s little brother and an aspiring puppeteer. Waggoner is the ultimate professional, talented beyond his years and innocent as little Fletcher. Just try not to love him! Mateja Govich plays Mike, Katherine’s fiancé and stepdad to Ellie and Fletcher. Govich’s support and love for the women in his life who just aren’t being themselves today is legitimizing. Waggoner and Govich complete their perfectly imperfect family.
Sean Watkinson as Adam and Maggie Spicer as Torrey are more than just comic relief. Watkinson is the teenaged dream we all remember, and he sets both Ellie and Katherine’s hearts aflutter. Watkinson proves himself and turns any cynic into a believer by Act II. Spicer is nothing short of hilarious as Katherine’s assistant wedding planner. Trying to keep it all together just isn’t working out for her, and the downward spiral she suffers is ridiculously fun to witness. Madison Hamilton as Savannah, the mean girl you love to hate, delivers another perfect moment for teens and adults alike. Hamilton is effectively Ellie’s “frien-emy” and her unknowing interactions with Katherine in Ellie’s body add another layer of hilarity to the show.
The beauty of Disney is that it must always teach us, touch our hearts, and remind us of small truths we may have forgotten. Freaky Friday is humorous and quick-witted, with complex musical numbers that reach beyond the “kid show” cliché. The Lyric has produced another gorgeous musical, with expert choreography by Amy Reynolds Reed, smart direction by Dawn Drake, and the ever precise costume design of Jeffrey Meek. It’s what every family needs as a reminder to laugh together and reconnect with the ties that bind us.
Ellie and Katherine are running out of time, and so are you! Lyric’s Summer at the Civic Series offers a quick turn-around on shows, and Freaky Friday runs just until July 1st.