Photo Courtesy of Jim Carmody

Emma Hunton (Ellie) and Heidi Blickenstaff (Katherine) reverse roles in Disney’s “Freaky Friday.”

 

May 9, 2017

'Freaky Friday' is a very Disney production

“My over 40 soul is in a teen cliché” sings Katherine, the mother who becomes trapped in her teenage daughter’s body in the musical “Freaky Friday.”

Trapped in a cliché is exactly what it feels like attending this Disney film turned Disney musical, now on stage at the Cleveland Play House.

For fans of similar works like “High School Musical” and “Bring It On,” pleasure can be had in this production written by Bridget Carpenter (“Parenthood,” “Friday Night Lights”) with pop-oriented music and lyrics by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey (“Next to Normal,” “If/Then”).

For the rest of us, not so much. Despite the fine efforts of director Christopher Ashley and musical director Andrew Graham.

Based on the novel by Mary Rodgers and the popular 1976 film and 2003 re-make, “Freaky Friday” follows an over-worked mother played by Heidi Blickenstaff and her teenage daughter, Ellie, played by Emma Hunton, who magically swap bodies. With only a day before Katherine is to be married, the duo experience life in the other person’s shoes and discover what it means to be family.

The swap takes place on a turntable in front of a colorful, cloud-filled backdrop filled with silhouettes of houses, which creates a pretty magical effect courtesy of lighting designer Howell Binkley and scenic designer Beowulf Boritt.

The same set pieces often multitask to represent various locations in the respective worlds of Katherine and Ellie, which is as clever as it is effective.

Most of the music in this production is upbeat, fun and so very Disney. Every now and then, “Freaky Friday” delves into deeper waters with moving ballads such as “Parents Lie” and “All of This and Everything” — which are wonderful — before the musical sadly returns to the shallow depths that seem to be its natural habitat.

Fortunately, the accomplished lead performers sound incredible no matter the song they sing. Their ability to interchange personalities is also impressive, particularly when Blickenstaff nails Ellie’s teen angst and spry dance moves — as choreographed by Sergio Trujillo — while Hutton portrays Katherine with the perfect amount of motherly insight and reserve. It helps that Hutton looks much older than 16 from the get-go.

The surrounding ensemble of teens includes the archetypical mean-girl, well played by Jessie Hooker, and Ellie’s ultra-cool love interest Adam, played by a charming Chris Ramirez. Both of them are handed all the thankless tropes found in every episode of every Disney Channel sitcom.

For those familiar with those tropes, “Freaky Friday” will be comfortable and highly entertaining fare. For those who go to the theater looking for something other than what can be found on basic cable and Disney movies, this musical will be pretty unsatisfying.

WHAT: “Freaky Friday”

WHERE: Allen Theatre, 1407 Euclid Ave., Cleveland

WHEN: Through May 20

TICKETS & INFO: $25 – $100, call 216-241-6000 or clevelandplayhouse.com




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