‘Freaky Friday’ is an American fantasy-comedy based on Mary Rodgers’s 1972 novel and play written in 2003 by Heather Hach and Leslie Dixon. The play is aimed at teenagers but if the parents explain the premise – ‘Mum Katherine and her teenage daughter Ellie magically find they have swapped bodies, ages and personalities’ – then the under 10s may enjoy this concept too. The film received an 88% appreciation rating from the youngsters, whilst a critic called it ‘some strange racist bullshit’.
This lively fun show is being presented by the Stirling Players at the Stirling Theatre, Morris Place, Innaloo. The two and a half hour performances had curtain up at 7.30 pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 22nd April until the 7th May, with 2.00 pm matinées on the 24th April and 1st May.
Freaky Friday attracted a total of 1.58 million viewers with a 0.29 rating for people aged 18–49, making it the lowest-rated Disney Channel Original Movie premiere of the last decade. However, the later film version was a big commercial success, mainly because of the two female stars, grossing over $160 million worldwide from a $26 million budget.
The scene: Present day in an American suburban town near Chicago.
The set: Designer, Bec Simpkins. A single plain white flat depicting an urban skyline fills the rear wall.
Set Building and painting: Bec Simpkins, Luke Miller, Benjamin Small, Paris Ceglinski, Eilise Pham, Fran Gordon, Paul Treasure, Glenn Scott and Joe Teakle.
Lighting design and operator: John Woolrych filled the stage with patches of colour for the dance routines.
Sound operator: Emily Hall – on cue
Stage manager: The scene changes – mainly single items of furniture – were fast and efficient.
Specialty Props: Hourglass (impressive) Gary Wetherilt, Simon Walters, Connie Wetherilt. Wedding Cakes Penelope Colgan, and Food Supplies Paul Treasure
General Props: Benjamin Small
Cast Liaison: Benjamin Small, Penelope Colgan
Stagehands: Gemma Wright, Kate Wright
Poster and Program: Fran Gordon
Photographer: Kevin Forward
In the prologue, disorganized, slovenly and rebellious, 13-year-old Ellie Blake (Gemma Hanh) welcomes us to her unbelievable yet ‘one-hundred-percent true’ story. Ellie (Gemma Hanh) is a fairly typical teen who believes that adults have it easy and quickly finds herself out of her depth when faced with real adult responsibilities and concerns. She wants to be free from her mother bossing her around and is really serious about doing more of the things she wants to do.
Today is the day of Ellie’s Mum, Katherine’s (Eilise Phan) wedding to her fiancé Mike (Benjamin Small). Desperate to appear in THE socialite wedding magazine – Down the Aisle – she is cooking all her own food. It is a crazy day at the Blake household. Her frantic assistant, Torrey (Penelope Colgan) and a team of waiters are on the verge of quitting.
The same day, Ellie is keen to go on the school scavenger hunt rather than go to the wedding rehearsal. Ellie’s little brother, Fletcher (Lewis Wagstaff) is obsessed with magic and has just found an antique hourglass that was left to the kids by their late father. Receiving no sympathy or love from her mother, Ellie refuses to have anything to do with Mike (Benjamin Small), her new stepfather.
Katherine confronts Ellie about her arrogance, neither is listening to the other’s opinion. The hourglass begins to glow and in a flash, Ellie and Katherine both find themselves inside the other’s body. They drop the hourglass, and it smashes to pieces on the floor. The Mum sold the matching hourglass to an antiques store to pay for her catering business. Katherine – now Ellie – heads off to school and meets Ellie’s friends. There is Adam (Thomas Matthews) in charge of the Hunt, and the intimidating school villain, Queen Bee Savannah (Paris Ceglinski) and her Posse (Anneke McLennan, Bronte McLennan). Ellie attends a biology dissection class with Adam.
Back at the Blake house, Ellie – now mistaken for her Mum – tries to fake her way through the magazine interview with Danielle (Sueanne McCumstie) and Louis (Zavier Wileman). It doesn’t go well. Meanwhile, at the parent-teacher’s meeting, the principal, Dr. Ehrin (Guy Jackson), introduces Ellie’s teachers, Señor O’Brien (Glenn Michael Scott) and Mrs. Luckenbill (Ann Speicher), they state Ellie’s attendance since her father’s death has been terrible.
Ellie and Fletcher get the whole school to search antique shops for the second hourglass.
Fletcher is excited to learn they are moving to Hollywood – he could become a world-class magician in Vegas. Wedding guests are starting to arrive for the rehearsal dinner, but Fletcher has disappeared. Adam finds runaway Fletcher and they arrive back home thanks to police officer Kowalski (Guy Jackson).
Early next day, Katherine, Monica, and Karl find an antique watch shop and see the hourglass in the window. They wake the owner, Mrs. Time (Ann Speicher) and convince her to loan them the hourglass. Katherine returns home to find Ellie in her wedding dress, ready to walk down the aisle. When Ellie and Mike do their dance it goes awry and Ellie destroys the cake, which upsets her helper Torrey (Penelope Colgan). The mum and daughter hold the hourglass but cannot reverse the magic.
Can things ever get back to normal?
Other characters and actors, equally as good performers as those mentioned previously, include Gretchen (Ffion Bishop), Brian (Sean Smith), Grandpa Gordon (David Young), Grandma Helene (Fran Gordon), Hannah (Ciara Malone), Parker (Riley Merigan), Wells (Bailey O’Hehir) and Brian (Sean Smith).
The director of this musical is Kimberley Shaw, who has thirty years’ of theatre experience is currently President of the Independent Theatre Association. She is also a much-respected writer for the Western Australian and reviewer for Stage Whispers Magazine.
As a director, Kimberley has been involved with diverse genres such as ‘Ladies in Black’ and ‘Spamalot’. Kimberley has received many awards, including three Finley for directing musicals.
Musical Director, Samantha Ashman gathered a fine mix of musicians, which suited the style of schoolies’ music. Positioned in a store area to the side of the auditorium were:- Keyboard 1 – Paul Olsen, Keyboard 2 – Stephanie Gilhooley, Bass – Jasmine Eves, Cello – Amanda Reynolds, Guitar – Kieran Ridgway, Drums – Lachlan Forde, Reeds including Flute, Alto Sax, Clarinet, Oboe, Tenor Sax – Justin Farinosi, Trumpet – Owen Koroll. The balance was good and they complemented the dancers perfectly.
The Vocal Captain, Penelope Colgan had a massive task but with some very powerful voices in the cast, the night was filled with catchy tunes.
Choreographer Connie Wetherilt and Dance Captain Sean Smith had the small stage packed with energy. The performers were wonderful, handling the complex routines brilliantly.
The costumes ranged from school uniforms to party clothes and wedding outfits. They were supervised by Lyn Hutcheon, Kimberley Shaw and cast.
Kimberley and her talented cast tried hard, acted very well, sang with gusto but I felt that the script was thin, poorly written and flat. The clever premise was not enough to hold the audience for two hours. Perhaps it was me? The audience loved the play.