REVIEW: Spartanburg Youth Theatre’s ‘Freaky Friday’ is Fantastic Fish Out of Water Fable

Grace Januchowski and Susie Kocher in FREAKY FRIDAY THE MUSICAL ?: Wendy McCarty Photography


The names, occupations, settings and supernatural explanations may have changed among the four Walt Disney film adaptations, and now musical at Spartanburg Youth Theatre, of Mary Rodgers’ popular children’s book, Freaky Friday. But the general concept remains intact… a mother and daughter mysteriously switch bodies and learn that being a mom or teenager is not as easy as it first appears.

Spartanburg Youth Theatre mines this full-length musical – SYT does not mess around with Jr. Versions too often – in a riveting, timely production boasting thrills, hijinx, great singing and dancing, and a polished happy-go- lucky experience.

While audiences are likely more familiar with the Jamie Lee Curtis/Lindsay Lohan pairing in 2003, I fondly recall the first movie with Barbara Harris and a young Jodie Foster in a theatre in Spartanburg during its original run around February 1977. So, this version is part of that permanent reserve of happy memories when 10-year kids could still go the theatre without sans-chaperone or stranger danger fears. All I remember is laughing, freckles, lots of blonde hair and water skiing.

The cast and crew of Freaky Friday.

Susie Kocher (one of only two adult actors in this show) is Katherine (widowed mother of two and now a career gal as caterer) and Grace Januchowski (a senior at Spartanburg Day School) plays rambunctious teenager Ellie and who still mourns her father’s death and is trying to assert her independence).

Kocher, a mainstay at Spartanburg Little Theatre (The Dixie Swim Club, Hello,Dolly!) and Tryon Little Theater (Bright Star, Mamma Mia!) marks her SYT debut with Freaky Friday and simply dazzles the audience with her knack for physical comedy and maternal qualities.

But nothing tops the moment when their personalities swap (replete with special lighting effects of Peter Lamson) during a tug of war with a magical hour glass (a Disney-grade professional prop designed by Assistant Director/Props Master Maddie Tisdel). Kocher morphs into a 16-year-old full-throttle immediately slouched, amped up to about three 5 Hour Energy Shots, tripping in high heels, spotting wrinkles and spouting jargon foreign to a middle-aged woman.

Conversely, Januchowski (recently in Elf the Musical, Jr. and stage manager of The Cat in the Hat), who arguably has the tougher role here since she has no experience as an adult, holds her own with Kocher move by move, shtick by shtick becoming the staid voice of reason, relishing the agility of youth, and the frustration at the power shift in Katherine’s relationship with young Ellie.

Not only a gifted vocalist (“I Got This,” a pop anthem with several non-gratuitous reprises) Januchowski also handles the handles the physicality and situational gags with aplomb such as avoiding “uncomfortable” encounters with Katherine’s fiancé Mike (played by Jon Garner of SLT’s Mamma Mia!, upcoming Sister Act), or expertly slicing up a frog in biology class as if were a holiday ham.

Not to be upstaged is Kolsen Davis (the youngest actor in the cast and 4th grader at Pauline Glenn Springs Elementary) as the Houdini-in-training younger brother Fletcher, who steals his scenes whenever he is on stage.

With a book by Bridget Carpenter, Music by Tom Kitt and Lyrics by Brian Yorkey, Disney’s Freaky Friday The Musical has a High School Musical aesthetic: an upbeat contemporary score with a high-octane opener “Just One Day,” “Oh Biology” (which is as much about hormones as it is dissecting amphibians), and the introspective “Parents Lie” in the car with Kocher and Davis.

Disney’s Freaky Friday musical was curiously never mounted on the Great White Way, but went straight to licensing and a TV movie, the fourth film adaptation not counting the 2020 horror comedy Freaky.

This show also features a solid supporting cast with Ellie’s crush Adam (played by Parker Bowen who gives one of finest vocal performances in the show at the beginning of “Go”); Jake Leonard and Laney Voyles as Ellie’s bffs Karl and Monica; Naomi Major as Torrey the caterer assistant; and the resident mean girls Savannah (Anna Becknell) and Kitty (Veronica Glinyany).

Director Adam Sanders keeps the story moving briskly but never rushed. Lustra Miller’s choreography is fresh and high energy; Kennedy Roberts’ costumes are overflowing in vibrant colors that make a statement; scenic designer Clint Walker delivers a stunning abstract, functional and utilitarian space to perform; and the vocals are in fine form under the tutelage of music director Ben Chumley.

Spartanburg Youth Theatre provides not only theatre for young audiences but vital training in all aspects of theatre production including lights, sound, and stage management.

Kudos to the entire cast and crew for a fantastic job by all:

Danielle/Ensemble ….Mary Cathryn English

Louis/Minister/Ensemble….Beckett Ferguson

Dr. Ehrin/Ensemble….Mirabelle Ferguson

Mrs. Blumen/Ensemble….Sidney Davis

Senora O’Brien/Ensemble….Trilby Allen

Mrs. Luckenbill/ Ensemble….Annie Brannon

Ms. Meyers/ Officer Kowalski/Ensemble….Lilly Thompson

Mrs. Time/Ensemble….Emma Brown

Ensemble: Addyson Crocker, Eden Vander Ploeg


Stage Manager: Jacob Hansen, 12th, Dorman High

Assistant Stage Manager: Madison Doggett, 11th, Homeschool

Dance Captain: Anna Becknell, 12th, Spartanburg High
Sound Consultant: Trey Hendon

Costume Assistant: Kendall Guntner

Production Assistant: Myles Moore

Running Crew: Avery Beaton, Madison Doggett, Chloe Hujik, Molly Jones, Sarah Kneisley, Ray Mekosh, Bella Rector, Silas Rector, Isabella Scott

SYT productions generally run one weekend only (plus school performances) so freaky Friday has unfortunately closed. Their next play is Alice in Wonderland directed by Ahsha Daniels and set for April 15-16. For tickets, visit

Related Articles