When the Freaky Friday musical was first announced, I had various emotions. It wouldn’t be going to Broadway, so I was heartbroken. We were receiving a cast album, so that was a wonderful compromise. Heidi Blickenstaff would be headlining and I was like “I know what kind of girl she is, and she is going to kill it!” Finally, I read who would be doing the score and I went…what?
Now, don’t get me wrong, that “What?” was meant in the best possible way, as I would have never expected to read a press release Pulitzer Prize winners Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey to be creating a score for a lighthearted family musical. Their work on Next to Normal, the gorgeous musical (and one of few musicals to win the Pulitzer for Drama) about a woman dealing with bipolar disorder, doesn’t scream “Jodie Foster and/or Lindsey Lohan flick,” but I am here to tell you it really works.
I took a walk this past Friday (how fitting), its release day, and went through to the thing in full and it is such a fantastic listen. The show takes its own approach to the switch, differing from the films and book. Ellie (the daughter, played phenomenally by Emma Hunton) gets her hands on an hourglass for an ultimate scavenger hunt with her fellow high-schoolers. After a fight over it with her mom, Katherine (and their voices scooping to signify it), the switch happens.
Heidi Blickenstaff was made for this role. As she takes on the mind of her daughter, she plays around and has such a fun time with her role. She adds some incredible soul and sass on “What You Got” and sings with beautiful poignancy on “Parents Lie” and “After All of This and Everything.” Emma Hunton’s big solo “Oh, Biology” is not only a funny number but a rather interestingly deep one, as her adult brain and teenage heart battle over whether her feelings for fellow student, Adam.
Adam, played with a lovely sweetness by Jason Gotay, gets to sing the meat of the rousing “Go,” a song which I expect to be rerecorded for a Disney Parks parade or show within the next five years. He does get a dud with “Women and Sandwiches,” which tries to be a funny musical analogy song that just falls flat. No fault of his, it just doesn’t work. “Vows” has the same problem, sung by Alan H. Green. His voice is wonderful, but it doesn’t fit the flow of the show or the tone at all. It’s total fluff.
Ann Harada, personal Broadway royalty, shows up here and there (not enough, I say!), but her singing about killing a kid (it makes sense in context) made me laugh out loud on my walk. I probably looked like a crazy person.
“Busted” is the best song on the album, as the two find out secrets about each other and can’t believe they’ve snuck it past them this entire time. It has a Soul Train/Aretha Franklin type feel that I really dug, and it is just hilarious throughout. The lyrics are great. In the opener, “Just One Day,” the lyric “it’s a million little things, it’s the Riesling and the rings.” makes me smile every time, also because Heidi’s vocal on that line is killer.
The tone of the album seems like a mix of If/Then (also written by Yorkey and Kitt) and Bring It On: The Musical. Some beautiful ballads mixed in with a fun and lively musical. They even made the musical prologue, something I’m not the biggest fan of, work pretty well here.
I highly suggest you give this album a listen, maybe even petition for a big-scale tour or Broadway run, as it’s just pure fun.
I give Freaky Friday 4.5 Broadway Beltresses out of 5.