For every teenager who has rebelled against parental authority and every parent who has been frustrated by that rebellion, the Wagon Wheel Theatre has something for you.
It is titled, appropriately, “Freaky Friday” and it comes from that wellspring of parent/child communication, The Disney Company.
Based on a 1972 book by Mary Rodgers and two subsequent films (1976 and 2003), it tells of the rocky relationship of a teenage girl and her mother.
Its keywords definitely are not “patient” and “understanding.”
The subject gains new life in this regional premiere, directed and choreographed by WW Artistic Director Scott Michaels.
There is no doubt that its obviously popular premise — connection with a magical hour glass switches mom and daughter into each other’s bodies — struck a chord, especially with the females in the opening night audience.
Understanding doesn’t come easily, but in the hands of Kira Lace Hawkins as Katherine Blake (om) and Laura Plyler as daughter Ellie, watching this talented duo gradually shift from extreme opposites to (at least) tolerant women is not only a pleasure but a real lesson in
character creation — or re-creation!
Happily both have strong, warm voices allowing them to be heard in the frequent ensemble numbers and to break out with several touching solos — “Parents Lie,” Katherine/”No More Fear,” Ellie — and with emotion-packed duets.
Secrets come out in “Busted,” when Ellie finds mom’s cigarette stash and mom finds Ellie’s tattoo — on her hip!
The real fun is seeing Plyler go from mother-hating teen to mother-loving daughter and Hawkins, from strict dictator mother to sympathetic mom.
Caught totally unawares in the crossfire are Nate Friedberg as son/brother Fletcher, who communicates his feelings via hand puppets until “Drivin’ With My Mom” gets to be too much; Mike (Grayson Samuels), Katherine’s good-natured fiancé who accepts Ellie’s ill-concealed hostility as best he can; Torrey (Juliette Redden), Katherine’s harried assistant who deals as well as possible with her suddenly erratic boss; and Adam (Ian Laudano), the object of Ellie’s affections, who bonds with Fletcher in a shared love for “Women and Sandwiches.”
Action circles around the timing of the annual high school scavenger hunt and the wedding rehearsal dinner, both of which fall on the same evening. Each is important, the hunt to Ellie and the dinner to Katherine, who demands her daughter attend.
After the switch, the altered personalities must decide which is more important, and to whom, meanwhile searching for a replacement for the broken hourglass and their only chance of returning to “normal.”.
Will they find it in time? Will the switch have made better people of them both?
Well, it’s Disney. What do you think?
The process is lightened considerably by the sharply performed dances, with each member of the singing/dancing ensemble returning to high school days with ease and enviable agility.
Stephen B. Hollenbeck’s costumes accent the period but, even though Mike is a low-salary technical teacher, he deserves a better-fitting suit.
As always, the eight-piece orchestra under the direction of keyboardist Thomas N. Stirling does an excellent job of providing the instrumental accompaniment.
The set designed by Michael Higgins provides swift if rumbley transition from a variety of locations.
“Freaky Friday” may not provide the answers to all inter-familial problems, but it offers the opportunity to view them with loving humor.
“FREAKY FRIDAY” plays through Aug. 18 in the theater at 2517 E. Center Street, Warsaw. For performance times and reservations, call (574) 267-8041.