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Arts & Culture

Playhouse's 'Freaky Friday' Adds Musical Spin To Tale Of Swapping Identities

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Mary Rodgers 1972 children's book gets updated to new millennium

'Freaky Friday' Serves Up Musical Comedy With A Message At Playhouse
Playhouse's 'Freaky Friday' Adds Musical Spin To Tale Of Swapping Identities
Christopher Ashley is celebrating his 10th year as artistic director of the La Jolla Playhouse, and he is kicking off the new year by directing a musical adaptation of “Freaky Friday.”

Companion viewing

"Freaky Friday" (1976)

"Like Father, Like Son" (1987)

"13 Going on 30" (2004)

Christopher Ashley is celebrating his 10th year as artistic director of the La Jolla Playhouse, and he is kicking off the new year by directing a musical adaptation of “Freaky Friday.”

Mary Rodgers' 1972 children's book "Freaky Friday" served up a tale of a mother and daughter who reach a peak of frustration with each other and then wake up one Friday morning to find they have swapped bodies and have to live each other's lives for a day.

The book was made into a successful Disney film in 1976 with Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster as mother and daughter, then a TV movie in 1995 by Melanie Mayron, and more recently remade in 2003 with Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan as parent and child.

Now the magical tale about a switcheroo gets one more incarnation as a musical play at La Jolla Playhouse.

"'Freaky Friday' has long been one of my favorite books," Ashley said during a break from rehearsals last month. "I read it as a child, and it's about a mother and a daughter who get so frustrated with each other that they wish the other person could live their life for a day. So their souls switch into the other's body, and they have to experience the other person's reality for a day. It's very funny, very warm, and when I first got out of college the first play I ever directed was a children's version of 'Freaky Friday' when I was 21 years old."

But when he directed it the first time, he looked at the story through the lens of the child. Now, 30 years later, he is seeing it much more from the adult's point of view.

"But I hope it's a show many generations can come to and leave the theater feeling so warm and connected and inspired to hope about the possibilities of loving each other more and understanding each other better," Ashley said.

The theme of walking in someone else's shoes resonates more potently right now with the political turmoil following President Trump's first days in office.

"So what does it take to really understand someone else's reality is a particularly hot topic right now," Ashley added.

Heidi Blickenstaff plays the mother in the play.

"Without getting too political, what’s been interesting is we did the first pass, what we called the pilot, before the election, and now we are doing it post-election, and I do feel there is — for me personally at least — a new feeling, and it’s even more important to tell this story of compassion and empathy, and our show is beautifully feminist," Blickenstaff said.

Emma Hunton plays the teenaged daughter.

"Our show is also wonderfully diverse," Hunton said. "And that brought new meaning to some things with this new shift in the world, led us to find new moments in the show that didn't mean the same things that they did before. [The song} 'No More Fear' took on a whole new meaning."

"But hopefully, it's still really, really funny," Ashley added.

“Freaky Friday” opened on Tuesday at La Jolla Playhouse, and its run has already been extended through March 12.