Freaky Friday – Zest Theatre Group

Freaky Friday – Zest Theatre Group

Zest Theatre Group’s production of “Freaky Friday” in the Victor Harbour Town Hall is a mother and daughter enterprise in more ways than one. Director/Producer Terry Mountstephen and her daughter AD Peta Bowey form a most successful collaboration to bring this musical play to their local stage. Together with MD Aria Stevenson and Choreographer Natalie Stevenson, another mother and daughter team, they have achieved an end product worthy of their combined artistic energies and dedication to the project.

On stage yet another mother daughter theme is the core of the play. A magical hour glass is dropped and broken during a disagreement between the two. Instantly their identities swap over. This unforeseen dilemma poses a multitude of problems. Mother (Katherine Blake) is about to remarry whist teenage daughter (Ellie) is having her share of issues at home and at school, and, we eventually find, has not recovered from the death of her father some few years ago. What to do? Well nothing can be done until an identical companion glass ornament is found and the spell hopefully reversed to the status quo. One does exist but where is it?

The mother in this family is deftly played by Natasha Scholey. Natasha inhabits her role with consummate professional ease. She is equally at ease both on stage and with her audience. She simply commands our attention. Her confidence, poise and timing are all impeccable. Natasha skilfully “sells” her vocal talents without encroaching on the many good contributions of her fellow cast members. I’m sure they have all benefited from working in close liaison with her stagecraft. However, and by sharp contrast re experience, Tia Stevenson playing her daughter Ellie, more than holds her own on stage. The moments between mother and daughter are highlights in this production.Their combined vocals in such numbers as “Just One Day” and “The Hourglass” are powerful and true. Tia exhibits a natural stage presence and works her dual characters with a great deal of intelligence and skill. My prediction is that Tia’s vocal range, clarity and natural pitch will carry her to many other roles in musical theatre. A finely crafted performance.

As fiance and imminent step-father to be (Mike), Chris Stevenson invests a strong male physical presence and a melifluous baritone to the family. Chris especially uses his vocal qualities to effect in the pertinent number “Vows”. Hand puppet fanatic and younger brother to Ellie is Fletcher Blake who is well voiced by Alice Riggs. Well done Alice! As the youngest member of the company your performance did not miss a beat. Bayden Rumbelow plays Adam who certainly fancies Ellie but loves her mum’s (Katherine’s) sandwiches even more. In a duet with Fletcher “Women and Sandwiches” he really has the audience on his side. Bayden has a lovely mellow voice and, I reckon, with some good singing tuition will certainly more than make the grade in productions to come. I’m with the audience, seeing a young man on stage giving of his acting best is a real treat.

There are a number of minor characters and delightful cameo performances worthy of mention. Rachel Coghlan ably demonstrates her wealth of experience as both Officer Sitz and (the audience favourite) Mrs. Myers the Gymnastics teacher. One wonders what happened to Mr Myers!!Sophie Davies invests her character Torrey with a brisk and business-like aura in keeping with her position as Katherine Blake’s PA. Sophie certainly has the ability to take on a more substantial role in future productions. Leila Hollingworth as School Counsellor and Wedding Celebrant plays her roles with thought and conviction. Ellies “Hunt” competition, a feisty Savannah, is played with obvious relish by Eliza Altamura. Sarah Tymko and Jonathon Hogg both handle their individual multiple roles in a workmanlike fashion. Kaitlyn Tanner as Gretchen and Payton Stevenson as Hannah are convincing as good and loyal friends to Ellie, regardless of how weird she seems to be at times. Jessica Hogg as Danielle does her best to get a wedding interview.

Stand out scenes, memorable for their fun and ensemble work in voice and accompanying movement are the Biology class routine which has an interesting combination of frog dissection and dancing with tables. The scenes at the school with the Principal and Counsellor struck a long lost memorable chord with me and the very stylish and quirky movement delivered by all the chorus in the gym produces great visual effect! There is some very inventive “business” in little cameos across the stage

There were a number of glitches on opening night. A couple of clunky scene changes together with pauses too long between scenes did interrupt both continuity and pace. All cues for lights and sound together with Ellie’s costume change for the last scene need to be quicker and slicker. But it was the first run to a paying audience who, I hasten to add, did not seem at all bothered by these minor technical issues. I am sure that all of the above will get ironed out as the season progresses. “Freaky Friday” is a most worthy effort from Zest. It deserves to attract a great deal of community support. Like the attentive and appreciative first night local audience I enjoyed it a lot!

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This production was reviewed by:

Alan Shepley
Alan Shepley
Whilst at University and Adelaide Teachers College he performed with Adelaide Uni Footlights, Therry and Theatre Guild before being appointed to country teaching positions. Over 35 years he was involved with school and/or community theatre productions in all facets of getting a show on stage at Pt. Augusta, Kadina , Balaklava and Pt. Pirie.

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