With ‘Freaky Friday,’ CMT finds the soul(s) of good musical comedy

I‘m always a fan of Children’s Musical Theaterworks, even when some productions aren’t quite as polished as others, but I don’t have to stretch in any way to find great things to say about “Disney’s Freaky Friday,” the company’s excellent summer musical. It’s funny, tuneful, well directed, nicely designed and features some very strong CMT performances.

Pictured above: Katie McGary, left, is Katherine, and Honoria Felton is Ellie in ‘Freaky Friday.’  Photo: Children’s Musical Theaterworks

Note: I don’t officially “review” CMT shows other than critique the adult stuff (directing, creative team, etc.) and perhaps the content of the play itself. I stay away from critiques of individual actors unless they’re wholly positive. Why? Just because. They’re too young, at least in the context of this company, to be subjected to such scrutiny. Also, the show is double-cast, so I didn’t have the opportunity to see all the leading roles.

Some things I really like about the “Caspian” cast of the production:

Katie McGary’s voice. From her first note, her belt is strong, her tone vivid and her emotional resonance high. This is a voice to pay attention to. She is cast in the role of Katherine, the harried mother who’s juggling a catering business, impending wedding and rebellious teenager daughter. Both McGary and Honoraria Felton (as Ellie, the daughter) have a tremendous age and psychological range to play.


Felton’s stage presence. She starts out as the slouchy daughter, but once the souls are swapped, she gets to play a mom trapped in a teen’s body. My favorite moment: when she “mom dances” in the song “Go.” It’s hilarious.


Michael Ferrer as Adam, the boy on whom Ellie has a crush. I’ve seen Ferrer in several local productions, and in “Freaky Friday” he really hits his stride. His characterization is effective and his physicality on stage endearing; what really sets him apart, though, is his very strong voice.

The ethereal 3D shapes that appear out of the fog in Dan Aldape’s chipper lighting design. I’m not sure how Aldape works the magic he does in the sorta creaky Memorial Auditorium, but the opening moments of the show grab the viewer’s attention, that’s for sure.

Vanessa Gonzalez’s choreography. I like its fresh, appealing vibe. And I’m impressed with the quality of the dancers in terms of consistency, technique and confidence.

The direction is crisp and the staging often clever. Gonzalez doubles as the director, and C.J. Dion is co-director, and the show hums along nicely. I particularly like some of the slow-motion sequences and tableaus that set the ensemble off from the highlighted characters. Many of the scenes are nicely punctuated, such as one in a school counselor’s office, which ends on a vibrant and amusing note.

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The ensemble is lively and focused. Kalena Schuhlein makes a great impression as Savannah, the high school mean girl. Jacob Cozzi and Juliana Chiarito play a bunch of fun roles (my favorites are Grandpa and Grandma). As dancers, Micah Nicholson and Luke Norton are standouts.

Finally, my favorite number. It’s “Biology,” which Ellie (by this time temporarily occupied by the soul of Katherine) uses to explore her newfound high-school environment. I love the song, staging, choreography, humor and spirit of the piece. It almost made me want to go back to high school. Well, maybe not. But that’s the magic of theater.

Show info

‘Freaky Friday,’ continues through July 21, Fresno Veterans Memorial Auditorium. Tickets are $14-$22 adults, $20 seniors, $10 children.

Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

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