Jamee Perryman, left, and Lauren Ferguson, right, perform as their characters Katherine and Ellie, respectively, surrounded by supporting cast members during the Ridgedale Players production of “Freaky Friday” June 12.

Jamee Perryman, left, and Lauren Ferguson, right, perform as their characters Katherine and Ellie, respectively, surrounded by supporting cast members during the Ridgedale Players production of “Freaky Friday” June 12.

Photo by Jonathan Shead


Ridgedale Players return with ‘Freaky Friday’ production

Full slate of shows planned for 2021-2022 season

By: Jonathan Shead | Troy Times | Published June 23, 2021

 Ellie, played by Lauren Ferguson, right, and Adam, played by Will Estes, exchange dialogue during a scene in “Freaky Friday,” performed by the Ridgedale Players June 12.

Ellie, played by Lauren Ferguson, right, and Adam, played by Will Estes, exchange dialogue during a scene in “Freaky Friday,” performed by the Ridgedale Players June 12.

Photo by Jonathan Shead

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TROY — What started as a dream for Ridgedale Players staff to resume live theater last fall finally became a reality on opening day June 9 with the theater’s production of Disney’s “Freaky Friday.”

“Our Players board just started brainstorming on what we could do, and throughout the winter we talked about (how) we are going to do this ‘Freaky Friday’ show, which was on our 2021 slate,” show and music director Kellie Evans Rao said. “The result is, we’ve built an outdoor stage. We have an outdoor space. … We’ve run the show. We know it works, and here we are. It was a dream that was conceived last fall, and here we are.”

Ridgedale Players staff weren’t the only ones yearning to resume live theater for the community, Evans Rao said. More than 50 actors from across metro Detroit auditioned over Zoom, which brought in more than the normal pool of auditioners.

“They missed that creativity, being on the stage, and live theater. An actor needs to act. They have it in their soul,” she said.

The Ridgedale Players performed “Freaky Friday” June 9, 12, 19, and 20. Tickets to upcoming performances to the outdoor show are available for June 26 and 27. Audience members must bring their own lawn chairs.

“It’s the storyline that was originally created with Jodi Foster a long time ago, in a movie where a mother and daughter who are at odds with each other somehow magically swap bodies for 24 hours,” Evans Rao said of the play’s plot. “They spend a day in each other’s shoes and in the end they come to appreciate each other. That’s the life lesson in the end, which actually is a lesson for our times as well.”

Greater access to vaccinations for Players staff and the “Freaky Friday” cast, as well as eased restrictions, have allowed the theater to put together an indoor contingency plan, in case of weather. Weather-related changes will be announced a few hours prior to each show, Evans Rao said.

If a show is moved indoors, patrons have the option to attend the show or exchange their tickets for a different performance date and time. “We certainly are respectful of all of our patrons. We have seating in the theater so that the casts are able to do their shows, and we’re able to accommodate patrons.”

As a Ridgedale Players actor, Jamee Perryman, who is one of the two actresses to play the role of Katherine, the mother, acknowledged the oddities that come with returning to live theater after a year, but she said, “I don’t know if there’s been a better feeling other than maybe having my children.”

Lauren Ferguson, who is one of two actresses to play Ellie, the daughter, said “Freaky Friday” is a fun show to resume live theater with. Beyond that, she’s enjoyed observing the changes that have embedded themselves into theater over the past year.

One of those changes has been moving performances outdoors, where weather and other factors can be unpredictable. Ferguson just tries to roll with the punches. Despite audio issues — microphones cutting out — persisting throughout the 1 p.m. performance June 12, the actors pushed forward and made up for those issues by projecting their voices louder.

“No matter what, whether you’re doing an indoor (or outdoor) show, no matter where, things are going to happen. It’s live theater. I really think it’s that idea of whatever happens, you go with it. I just try to figure out what I’m doing next, instead of getting in my head about what just happened,” Ferguson said.

“I think the sound stuff has been a struggle,” Perryman added, “because we also need a lot more mics when we’re outside. I just put my head down, and keep going, and pretend it’s not happening.”

Evans Rao said they’re still learning as the two casts and crew work through some of the outdoor obstacles, but despite that, believes the show lends itself to the outdoors. “‘Freaky Friday’ has a lot of scene changes, so we had to accommodate that. It’s the magic of Disney. We had to make that happen on stage, and we’ve been able to do that.”

Despite some of the hurdles of this production, and long days after work to rehearse the show, both Perryman and Ferguson said they’re happy to be back.

“I feel like with the pandemic, it could be a situation of the very thing you once loved, it’s now something you don’t. For me, I’m especially thankful that I’m back,” Ferguson said.

Both hope the show teaches audience members the importance of looking at both perspectives of a situation and respecting someone’s side of the story. Ferguson also hopes it shows the importance of not ignoring secondary emotions.

“I think it’s really important to take a look at everyone’s situation and understand that we have to adapt for people’s needs.”

With its first production almost wrapped up, the Ridgedale players don’t plan to stop there. A full slate of shows for the 2021-2022 season has been announced, Evans Rao said, as well as a Christmas show, and a show July 24 and 25, “Biology, the Musical,” written by local playwright Becca Ferber. The Players youth theater program will return as well.

“We’re hoping to get back to what we do, and what we know how to do,” Evans Rao said.

For more information, visit https://ridgedaleplayers.com.

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