When you get older, it’s hard to remember what it was like to be a teen. Meanwhile, teenagers can’t even imagine what it’s like to be a full-grown adult. Sometimes you just have to put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
In Freaky Friday, playing at Circle Theatre this month, a little bit of magic forces mother and daughter to do just that — and much more.
Katherine, played by Emily Diener, is a widow and mother to her teenage daughter, Ellie, played by Phoebe Dawson. In the midst of Katherine planning to marry again and Ellie trying to impress her high school crush, mother and daughter somehow switch bodies and have to figure out how to get back before everything is ruined. This quirky musical tells the story of love, acceptance and the bond of a mother and daughter.
Freaky Friday started out as a comedic children’s novel written by Mary Rodgers in 1972. A few years later, Disney adapted it into a movie starring Barbara Harris, Jodie Foster and John Astin. Perhaps the most familiar version of the show today is the 2003 movie starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan.
This month, Circle Theatre is performing the musical adaptation of the show. Written by Bridget Carpenter, the musical screenplay is based on the book and two movies, premiering in 2016.
Director Chris Grooms said the biggest theme of the show is empathy.
“Really, at the heart of it, it’s a show about empathy and understanding and being able to feel, literally, what it’s like to walk a day in somebody else’s shoes,” Grooms said. “It’s a really fun, playful, musical way to do it.”
The story is told through conversational songs, said Music Director Josh Keller, adding that the ensemble is like an instrument itself, the common denominator that keeps the show moving.
“So much of it is very seamless,” Keller said. “Throughout the show, you’ll hear them with oohs and ahhs, hmms, just backing up whoever’s singing a solo. ... You’ll see them very intricately interacting with the orchestra and supporting them as well.”
“I hope people prepare for the unexpected,” Keller said. “If they have a certain paradigm about what they think Freaky Friday will be, I think (the show) will bust it.”
Grooms, who has connected to the show on a personal level, being a father of two young girls, said he hopes audience members feel a little more appreciation toward their loved ones after seeing Freaky Friday.
“What (Katherine and Ellie) find out in the end is they have to learn to really understand that they love each other, and it’s that love that the mother and daughter have for each other that ultimately allows them to switch back,” Grooms said. “My goal — I wrote this down in my concept statement that I shared with the production staff — is that after the show, the audience would go home or to whoever they’re with, and just want to hug them a little bit more.”
1703 Robinson Rd. SE, Grand Rapids
May 2-4, 8-12, 15-18
Tickets start at $26