RISING SUN — Starting this Friday, Street Lamp Community Theatre is embracing the fun, freaky and fantastical as it presents its latest musical, “Freaky Friday,” from May 10-12, 17-19.
Wedding planner Katherine and her daughter, Ellie, just can’t seem to see eye-to-eye across the generational divide that stands between them. To make matters worse, Katherine is about to marry a guy who Ellie isn’t so keen about, and Ellie desperately wants to participate in a school-wide nighttime scavenger hunt of which her mother doesn’t approve.
When the pair reach their breaking point, they magically swap bodies. As they spend a day literally walking in one another’s shoes, they must figure out how to reverse the curse before Katherine’s wedding — all while learning that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
During most of the show, Rylynn Woods plays mom Katherine in teenager Ellie’s body, while Erin Smith plays Ellie in Katherine’s body.
For Woods, playing a mother character was definitely out of her comfort zone.
“I’m not a mom, so that was my challenge,” she said. “I’m still getting parts as a performer that are grungy and angry and ‘I’m a teenager so I’m mad’ kind of things, so trying to be a professional wife and mother kind of character was a challenge.”
Smith, on the other hand, celebrated getting to play a snarky teen.
“[This is] the most fun I think I’ve ever had doing a part, being able to play a teenager who’s really actually in a mom’s body,” she said.
Smith said that Ellie’s character is a much more freeing role compared to what she was used to playing when she was Woods’ age.
“Growing up, I always did the ingenue roles, the leading lady,” she said. “It’s really kind of boring. You stand up there, you meet a guy, you sing a song, you fall in love and it’s happily ever after, but you never really get the tough parts. So now at my older age, I’m getting all these comic parts.”
Woods and Smith said this show is particularly touching for them to star in together as Smith started teaching Woods vocal music and performance when she was 9 or 10 years old.
“This has been a really special show to play her mom,” Smith said.
“For me, too, to play your mom,” Woods joked.
Husband and wife duo Andrew and Jamie DiMaio co-directed “Freaky Friday” at SLP.
Andrew said bringing “Freaky Friday” to life was a team effort between him and his wife.
“Both of our personalities can clash at times, but we do have a lot of fun directing together,” he said. “We work off of each other and we’re able to hopefully make a great show.”
Previously, Jamie and Andrew directed “Next to Normal” at SLP while Jamie was pregnant with their child. Family dynamics play a significant role in that show as well, albeit in a bit more serious way.
Now returning to direct “Freaky Friday” — which shares the same music writer, Tom Kitt, as “Next to Normal” — Andrew said it is fun to revisit some of those similar family messages but with a lighter tone.
While “Freaky Friday” showcases Katherine and Ellie’s mother-daughter relationship on stage, SLP’s production also features some other family bonds off stage.
LaShelle Bray gets to act alongside two of her children, Eric and Kalea, in this show. Although the Bel Air family have acted together in various combinations — including with one of their other siblings — this is the first time this trio is acting together.
With the show’s premiere weekend falling on Mother’s Day, Lashelle joked that being part of this production means that her kids are obligated to spend time with her.
“They’re forced to hang out with me,” she said.
But she added that getting to act in their first SLP show together will be an unforgettable way to spend the special day.
“This is my 24th Mother’s Day, so this is a whole new experience for me to be able to look back and go ‘Remember Mother’s Day when we were all in a musical together?’” she said.
Eric said “Freaky Friday” taught him to think more about the things his mom has to go through as a parent.
“Some of the things that happen in the show makes me think, ‘Maybe my mom does have a whole different life that I don’t want to complain about mine so much,’” he said.
Each actor noted their own favorite part of the “Freaky Friday” show. For instance, Kalea favors the song “No More Fear.”
“Near the end where the mom in Ellie’s body is singing her thoughts out loud while she’s fighting over the hourglass with another character,” she said. “I think it’s a really strong moment and it’s almost a turning point for Katherine’s character.”
Smith enjoys a scene in which Katherine and Ellie — who have already swapped bodies at this point in the show — are meeting with the school counselor to discuss Ellie’s behavior and attendance.
“At some point, the counselor counsels us to switch bodies and speak out of the other person’s mouth, and of course we’ve already done that … There’s a lot of back and forth and it’s very sharp and quick,” Smith said.
Lashelle and Woods agreed that the song “Bring My Baby Home” is each of their favorite part of the show.
“The ending is insane and it’s not work, it’s just enjoying ourselves,” Woods said. “We’re just belting our faces off and it’s so much fun.”
Meanwhile, Eric appreciates the smaller moments of the production.
“The entire thing is constantly fun with things coming up out of nowhere,” he said. “I like a lot of the recurring themes like (Ellie’s brother) Fletcher’s puppets and stuff like that.”
“Freaky Friday” has undergone numerous revamps over the years since it started as a 1972 children’s book by Mary Rodgers. A few years later, in 1976, it got turned into a film starring Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster.
After a lesser known 1995 version, “Freaky Friday” returned for perhaps its most notable iteration: the 2003 film starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan.
“Freaky Friday” was later turned into a stage musical, premiering at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Va., in 2016. The musical went on to be performed at theaters across the country and was adapted for a Disney movie musical in 2018, starring Heidi Blickenstaff and Cozi Zuehlsdorff.
While the plots differ among the iterations, Smith said the “Freaky Friday” musical maintains “the same heart … the same love” as the versions that came before it.
Smith added that although the lines are different, she wanted to keep the spirit of the iconic scene from the 2003 film where Jamie Lee Curtis — the daughter waking up in her mother’s body — wakes up to her fate.
“I think that is just one of the funniest scenes in all of cinema,” she said, noting that she wanted to honor moments like that in her own performance of the character.
Woods and Smith said the show covers a range of topics from body positivity to communication between generations to just generally being more understanding of perspectives that are different than your own.
“The show does a really good job at showing each side of their story,” Smith said. “[In real life] you’ll hear somebody complain about something in their life and you don’t understand why something’s going on. In this, both sides are being told.”
Andrew said “Freaky Friday” encourages people to reflect and try to see the other side of family issues.
“It’s just to show that you need to maybe take a deeper look into your relationship with your kids and vice versa,” he said. “I think it’s great to bring this message to anywhere to show that maybe you don’t know exactly what you’re mother or father or siblings are going through at the time, and showing that if you just love each other it can make a lot of things easier and fix things.”
Tickets and more information are available at streetlampproductions.org.