A number of versions of “Freaky Friday” exist, but in all of them the Disney story sinks or swims on the shoulders of the mother and daughter leads. Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster made it work in 1976 while Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan made it their own in a 2003 remake, but no one remembers the 1995 ABC version with Shelley Long and Gaby Hoffmann.
The 2016 musical adaptation went largely unnoticed outside of the Disney realm, but Trollwood Performing Arts School’s production of it is quite memorable, thanks in great part to Andie Peterson and McKenna Brye. Director Michael Walling gets the best of two young stars as they carry the show with amazing voices, great stage presence and maturity beyond their teenage years.
For Peterson, it’s a fond farewell to the stage she’s occupied every summer for years. For Brye, it’s a step into the spotlight after years as an ensemble member.
Peterson plays Katherine, the overworked and stressed mom trying to keep everything together the day before her wedding. The actress proved time and again she can handle such strong, mature characters, playing Ursula in 2016’s “The Little Mermaid,” Wardrobe in 2017’s “Beauty and the Beast” and the lead in last year’s “Hello, Dolly!”
It’s a real treat to see her play a teen, especially one in an adult body. She goes from upright and uptight as Katherine, to loose limbed and dancing when she’s awkwardly embodied by Ellie. Predictably, she gets the biggest laughs, with teenage wisecracks coming unexpectedly from an adult’s mouth.
She also gets the best song, winding down the first half as Ellie in Katherine’s body, telling her young brother, Fletcher, (Keagen Kratcha) “Parents Lie”. It’s a bittersweet moment, filled with humor, anger and sympathy and helps Ellie start to understand her mom’s life. It’s too understated to be a show-stopping number, but it showcases not only Peterson’s voice, but her range as an actress.
Brye may be small in stature, but she has a big voice and lets it out in “No More Fear” and “Oh Biology,” both of which are ensemble numbers that benefit from Michael Estanich’s choreography. In “Oh Biology,” he actually makes dissecting frogs seem enjoyable.
Brye and Peterson do fine jobs swapping characters, but show they work better together, blending their powerful voices wonderfully on “Bring My Baby (Brother) Home”. The two have real chemistry and it’s a shame this will be their last Trollwood show together as Peterson just graduated from West Fargo High School.
The supporting cast members do good jobs, but the characters are barely fleshed out. Alaina Droog nails the nervousness as Katherine’s assistant, Torrey, but really only gets to show off during “What You Got”. Abbey Greenawalt lays on the cattitude perfectly as Ellie’s snooty nemesis, Savannah.
The male roles, unfortunately don’t have much to work with. Dexter Conlin taps into the right mix of teenage goofiness as Ellie’s love interest, Adam, but the songs he gets to sing, particularly “Women and Sandwiches,” are forgettable. Ryan Schlepp is sympathetic as Katherine’s nice guy fiance, Mike, but his solo, “Vows,” is, well, nice, but bland. Both actors have shown they can do more with better roles, but “Freaky Friday” is really all about the ladies.
Just ask costume designer Jason Resler, who has fun dressing Ellie and her friends in a motley style, with lively splashes of color while Savannah’s rival mean girls sport pink. In comparison, the adults get darker muted shades and greys, often with rigid, linear patterns, like Katherine’s deep navy blue pinstripe suit, making it all the more fun when Peterson gets to play up a teen in adult clothes for laughs.
You may not leave singing Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s songs, but you will walk away remembering Peterson’s and Brye’s performances. The most “Freaky” thing about this show is just how good these two young stars are.
If you go
What: “Freaky Friday”
When: 8:30 p.m., Friday, July 12 and Saturday, July 13, 17 - 20 and 24 - 27.
Where: Bluestem Amphitheater, 801 50th Ave., S., Moorhead
Info: Tickets range from $10 - $32. https://trollwood.org, (218) 477-6502.