Musical stage stories of acceptance and new understandings will play out at Winston-Salem Theatre Alliance through September, as the company kicks off its new season with “Freaky Friday” on Friday, followed by three other shows.
“Hairspray,” “Billy Elliot” and a revisit of “The Legend of Georgia McBride” will fill out the first third of the 2019-2020 “Feels Like Home” season on Northwest Boulevard.
The story of “Freaky Friday” isn’t brand-new: Mary Rodgers wrote the popular novel in 1972. She was also involved in a 1976 movie version (Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster starred), and yet another in 2003 (Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan).
As Theatre Alliance’s artistic director Jamie Lawson explained, Disney has recently started a trend of creating musicals designed to go directly to regional and community theaters without spending Broadway production money.
With a book by Bridget Carpenter, the musical features music and lyrics by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, best known for “Next to Normal,” though this is quite a different kind of show.
“It’s a very different sound and feel for them,” Lawson said. “’Freaky Friday’ is a buoyant event, full of comic, fluffy fun.”
The story is a one-day-long, switch-of-bodies tale. “A mother and daughter are at odds and inadvertently make a wish that lets them walk in the other’s shoes,” Lawson said.
Katy Carroll plays mother Katherine Blake and Emi Curia plays daughter Ellie.
It’s Carroll’s first show at Theatre Alliance, after a 20-year break as a mother with six children. She performed in two Town of Lewisville summer productions, she said, “and I remembered what I loved about theater.”
“Freaky Friday” is also allowing her to share the experience with one of her children. “My youngest daughter, Emerson, is also in the show. I’m a mom and I guess that’s what Jamie needed.”
The most fun for her is playing “the snotty teenager. I have had years of practice studying them in their natural environment,” she said. “The key is a quality eye roll and corresponding sigh. It’s nice to be the irresponsible one!”
Back to the ’60s
The popular musical “Hairspray,” based on a John Waters movie from 1988, hit Broadway in 2003 and stayed until 2009, winning eight Tony awards.
The story of a young woman’s dream to dance on a popular TV music show in Baltimore, Md., circa 1962, features music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Shaiman and Scott Wittman, and a book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan.
“This is your typical fun, colorful, high-energy production, presented with a diverse cast, which we always like to feature,” Lawson said. “It will be a good time, even if it is something of a costume nightmare.”
Dancing against all odds
A popular British movie from 2000 spawned “Billy Elliot,” the musical, which opened in London in 2005. It won numerous awards in London and later in New York.
The music for the show is by Elton John, with book and lyrics by Lee Hall, who also wrote the movie’s screenplay.
Set in an English mining town undergoing a miner’s strike, 11-year-old Billy prefers ballet lessons to the boxing lessons his father and older brother favor.
“It’s a great story about acceptance, plus you have music by Elton John,” Lawson noted.
Reprising a cult favorite
In September, Theatre Alliance will bring back a popular show from last year, fitting with their “Feels Like Home” season theme. “The Legend of Georgia McBride” will feature chiefly the same cast that performed it last fall.
“This show deserves bigger audiences,” Lawson said. “It’s a great underdog story and a fun ‘cheer them on’ experience, though it is very R-rated. We’re looking forward to staging it again.”