October 19, 2019
Freaky fun in daughter-mom body swap musical
By John Busbee for The Culture Buzz
Big enough to take over the mainstage at the Des Moines Community Playhouse, the Kate Goldman Children’s Theatre’s Freaky Friday fills the main performing hall with energy, performance and a story line especially appealing to the ‘tween-teen crowd. This light-hearted show will delight many outside of that primary market, however, as it is filled with plenty of comedy, dance and some fine performances. Parents and grandparents should take students to enjoy this one.
Mary Rodgers released her book, “Freaky Friday,” in 1972, probably never foreseeing the potential her story about an overworked mother and her rebellious daughter, caught in a magical transference, would have. As a feature film, Freaky Friday popped onto our pop culture radar in the 1976 version with Jody Foster and Barbara Harris. Its 2003 remake (Jamie Lee Curtis, Lindsay Lohan) solidified its cultish popularity, eventually becoming part of the Broadway trend of adapting successful and popular movies into stage musicals. The musical debuted in 2016. Disney developed cinematic and stage versions of this story.
The foundation for this show is the mother-daughter duo, and the Playhouse’s production has two sparkling gems making this duo radiate. The mom, Katherine Blake, has a no-nonsense precision which masks deeper issues, thanks to Chelsea Haaland’s focused stage presence and fluid, delightful singing voice. With a teen’s roiling inner turmoil from her father’s death five years earlier, daughter Ellie Blake exudes a barely-beneath-the-surface fire, captured richly by the talented Anastasia Deace. The fire hits the gunpowder when a struggle with a precious keepsake hour glass results in its breakage, and the magical transference of inner selves into the other’s body. These two play off of each other brilliantly, and keep a consistent thread of the nuances and characterizations of mother and daughter, delighting the audience at every turn.
Director-Choreographer Megan Helmers blends the flow of this show through energetic production numbers with a talented ensemble in a spare scenic design. Helmers’ gift for painting a stage with a broad spectrum of movement is well-suited for this show, and she uses bold strokes, indeed. Add some great highlights from Ellie’s best friends, Karl (given charismatic enrgy by Michael Bundy II) and Monica (from the attitude-laced Tatum Lowell); Katherine’s new husband-to-be, Mike (affably done by Chris Ennis); and, Katherine’s tightly-wound assistant, Torrey (up-tightly portrayed by Stacie Bendixen), and a recipe for success awaits any who want to delight in a light comedic musical that still beats with a lesson-sharing heart.
The Culture Buzz theatre reviews are written by professional critics, to inform and enlighten. To receive weekly newsletters, email TheCultureBuzz@gmail.com or visit www.theculturebuzz.com. The Culture Buzz is a weekly broadcast/streaming arts & entertainment show, airing Wednesdays 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM Central Time on KFMG 98.9 FM and streaming at www.kfmg.org.