‘Freaky Friday’ at LTA New production of a fan favorite rarely misses a beat

‘Freaky Friday’ at LTA New production of a fan favorite rarely misses a beat
L-R) Patrick Byrns, Luke Martin, Joshua Mutterperl, Tucker Eskew, Michelle Stein, Kai Avila, Hannah Taylor, Eileen Parks and Sofia Cruz

By Thompson M. Eskew 

The Little Theatre of Alexandria’s production of “Freaky Friday” opened on Saturday, offering a modern retelling of the well-known narrative while focusing the central story around familiar elements that longtime fans of the premise will appreciate.

Mary Rodgers’ 1972 novel by the same name was the original story. It was eventually adapted into three movies in 1976, 1995 and 2003, as well as an official musical in 2016, all produced by Disney.

Each previous rendition has followed the basic story structure set by the novel, focusing on the strained relationship between a mother and daughter who refuse to see eye-to-eye until an ambiguous force has each live the other’s life for a day. In this, LTA’s production is true-to-form.

“I just love the whole theme: What would we be like if we got to live in someone else’s world for a day? How much more understand- ing and empathy would there be?” the production’s director Joanna Henry explained in an interview.

Set in the modern day, LTA’s “Freaky Friday” most closely resembles the 2016 musical production, following the annoyed daughter Ellie Blake, who is up in arms against her mother Katherine as the latter prepares to get married.

Sofia Cruz delivers a fantastic performance as Ellie, bringing a powerful presence to the stage with her voice. Cruz makes the audience truly understand her grievances with her mother, fueling a divide which many parents and teenagers can relate to.

The mental switch-up that the story revolves around also enables Cruz to explore her range. When she plays Katherine in Ellie’s body through most of the musical, a fun mixture of humor and heart

shines there. In the new mannerisms, Cruz exhibits a mature woman experiencing the chaotic life of her teenage daughter firsthand.

Similarly, Kristina Friedgen brings an equally powerful act to the stage in her motherly role with her physical and vocal performance. Matching the energy of Cruz throughout the play, the dynamic shifts as she goes from playing a stressed out mother and soon-to-be bride to portraying a teenage girl trapped in her busy mother’s body. The irony of the situation is never lost on the audience thanks to her humorous performance as teenage Ellie in Kristina’s body.

The rest of the cast also de- liver energetic performances that liven up Ellie and Katherine’s surroundings. Paul Caffrey and James Campione, who portray the soon-to-be stepdad Mike and Ellie’s little brother Fletcher respectively, are each given their own time in the spotlight. They provide the audience with a greater understanding of the dynamics within the family, as well as the hilariously confused perspectives of those closest to Ellie and Katherine.

Naja Bates also executes her role as the bully Savannah with her voice and antagonistic attitude, providing the audience with the closest thing to a true villain as the story allows. Ellie’s love interest is depicted as a mildly oblivious but well-meaning Adam through Joshua Mutterperl. Their enthusiasm and that of other tertiary characters is enhanced by the many ensembles who play multiple supporting characters.

LTA’s production also follows the general story beats that best portray the lives of average teenage girls today. From the inclusion of mobile phones that guide their every move to the heartwarming messages about body-positivity, these additions are meant to reflect the constant pressure society often subjects young women to while providing the audience with a catchy musical number to boot.

Equally heartfelt and comedic, the production presents its audience with a variety of musical numbers of separate genres. These range from the lighthearted “Women and Sandwiches,” which reflects

the views of one character on the complexity of women, to the grounded “No More Fear,” which explores the culmination of another character’s journey throughout the musical. Each number engages the audience with a bright chorographical display from the cast and the stage crew.

Overall, LTA’s “Freaky Friday” is a fun over-the-top musical that rarely misses a beat in its storytelling, with both the cast on the stage and the crew behind the scenes having clearly put everything they have into this production. When sitting among the spectators within the theatre, it is difficult not to want to sing along and dance to the beat.

“Freaky Friday” will run until August 12.

Music by Tom Kitt and lyrics by Brian Yorkey. Based on the musical and book by Bridget Carpenter. Music direction by Christopher A. Tomasino. Choreography by Stefan Sittig. Directed by Joanna Henry. Produced by Luanna Bossolo and Sheri Ratick Stroud. Assistant produced by Karen Maline and Zell Murphy.