Review: St. George Musical Theater’s ‘Freaky Friday’ is an unexpectedly touching family story

L-R: Tony Piersanti as Mike and Kailey Simmons as Katherine in St. George Musical Theater's production of Disney's "Freaky Friday," St. George, Utah, June 28, 2019 | Photo by Monica Johanson, St. George News

REVIEW — In a Southern Utah first, St. George Musical Theater presents Disney’s “Freaky Friday,” a new musical based on the novel by Mary Rodgers and several film adaptations of the same name.

In Freaky Friday, an uptight and overworked single mother and her moody teenage daughter magically swap bodies on one of the biggest nights for both of them. What ensues next is a musical full of chaos and humor, as well as a lot of heart, as the two try to navigate their way through each others’ worlds and problems and figure out how to switch back before both of their lives’ are irreparably changed.

Katherine Blake (Kailey Simmons) has her life planned down to the minute, and her upcoming wedding is no exception. With a prestigious magazine on the way to photograph her perfect nuptials, it seems that Katherine doesn’t have time for anything or anyone.

Ellie Blake (Katie Gardner) is angry at everything. She is angry at her little brother Fletcher (Eric Davis), she is angry at her mother and she is angry because her dad died and neither her brother nor mother seem to care anymore. On the night of the rehearsal dinner, Ellie only wants one thing, to participate in her school’s most important teenage ritual — The Hunt.

With such a prolific screen presence – Disney made three film and television versions (1976, 1995 and 2003) – it was only a matter of time until it was adapted as a musical for the stage. The first stage productions began in 2016, and Disney pumped out yet another made for television film with adaptations from the stage show in 2018.

Faith Olson (center) as Savannah in St. George Musical Theater’s production of Disney’s “Freaky Friday,” St. George, Utah, June 28, 2019 | Photo by Monica Johanson, St. George News

St. George Musical Theater’s production is the musical’s Southern Utah debut.

At the very deft hands of director and choreographer Sammy Myrick, the production delivers vibrant energy to the theater’s intimate in-the-round stage.

A cast of largely teenage actors with impressive vocal chops brings a youthful lightness to a show that hits on some surprisingly heavy themes. Among them loss, grief, blended families, tattoos, smoking and teenage hormones.

A few standouts from the cast include Davis as Fletcher/Angry Bob and Caspian, the endearing and annoying younger brother; Brennan Walters (understudy) as Adam, Ellie’s crush and the list master for the hunt; and Tim Weir who plays a plethora of parts, each one more goofy and over-the-top than the next.

One of my favorite songs, “Women and Sandwiches,” features both Walters and Davis in a delightfully comedic and perfectly teenage boyish number.

While the entire cast and crew is solid, it is Gardner and Simmons who anchor the production. The two females not only have incredible vocals, they are both exceptional actors who maneuver between prim and proper adults and moody teenage girls with ease, though it seems that when their characters’ bodies are switched they are both at their best.

The parts of Katherine Blake, Ellie Blake and Fletcher Blake/Angry Bob and Caspian are double cast with McKenzie Morgan as Katherine, Autumn Best as Ellie, and Drake Best as Fletcher on Thursdays and Saturdays and Simmons, Gardner and Davis playing the roles on Fridays and Mondays. Additionally, the role of Adam, which utilized the understudy during the production I viewed, will be played by Zack Grob for the duration of the show’s run.

I went into Freaky Friday with very little expectations except that I would have an enjoyable evening out but found myself tearing up during a couple numbers that were really heartfelt and touching — “Parents Lie” and “After All of This and Everything” in particular. It helped that I brought my preteen son with me, and it ended up being a really great time to bond.

Freaky Friday plays at the St. George Opera House, 212 N. Main Street, St. George, Thursdays-Saturdays and Mondays at 7:30 p.m. through July 20. Tickets are $19-$23 and group discounts are available by calling 435-628-8755.

Tickets can be purchased online, by calling 435-628-8755 or in person at the box office. Box office is open 6:30-7:30 p.m. on performance nights.

There will be no show on Independence Day but there will be a 2 p.m. matinee Saturday.

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Event details

  • What: St. George Musical Theater’s production of Disney’s “Freaky Friday.”
  • When: Thursdays-Saturdays and Mondays at 7:30 p.m. through July 20. There will be a 2 p.m. matinee Saturday, July 6.
  • Where: St. George Opera House, 212 N. Main Street, St. George.
  • Cost: $19-$23. Special group rates available by calling 435-628-8755.
  • Purchase tickets: Online, by calling 435-628-8755, or in person at the box office. Box office is open 6:30-7:30 p.m. on performance nights.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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