Last weekend, we got to see Freaky Friday at San Diego Musical Theatre! SDMT is a non-profit organization that produces musicals in the heart of San Diego. Additionally, they nurture and train young talent through pre-professional productions. We had such a blast at this particular show. And we would highly recommend checking them out if you’re ever in the area!
Location: San Diego, California
Our experience seeing Freaky Friday at San Diego Musical Theatre
Freaky Friday was one of San Diego Musical Theatre’s amazing pre-professional productions. These productions are special in that they help bridge the gap between youth and professional theatre. Additionally, they fill their casts with talented young actors (12-20) who are pursuing a career in the arts. This production of Freaky Friday was directed by Katie Banville and Noelle Marion.
For those who are unfamiliar with the story, Freaky Friday is about a mother and daughter who mysteriously end up swapping bodies. Consequently, they have to live out each other’s lives for a bit. It may seem like a light enough plot. But San Diego Musical Theatre focuses on that beautiful concept of empathy. After all, we never truly know what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. Oh, and as a side note – can we just give a special shout out to John Perry Wishchuk for his puppetry skills?
SDMT’s cast of Freaky Friday is packed with triple threats! Every single performer owned their role. Also, this isn’t the easiest show in terms of vocal chops and stamina. We were surprised by the wonderful moments of comedy. And the genuine vulnerability as well. Lots of kudos to the whole cast!
However, one actress seemed to bring a particularly strong sparkle to the stage – Rivers Harris. Her depiction of not only Ellie, but Katherine as well, was pure, unexplainable magic. Our guess is that we’ll probably be seeing her in big places.
* Theatre Trip would like to award a special to Rivers Harris for her performance as Ellie Blake!
Theatre Trip’s Interview with Jill Townsend
At Theatre Trip, we love getting to know interesting people in the industry. And that’s why we had a chat with Jill Townsend, the artistic and casting director for SDMT’s Freaky Friday. So keep reading for valuable insights on the audition process, as well as ways to support your children’s theatrical talents.
Theatre Trip: What initially inspired you to step into the world of musical theatre?
Jill: I initially stepped into the world of musical theatre through ice skating! I was a competitive ice skater as a child. And to be more graceful on the ice, I started taking dance classes. At my dance studio, one of my friends asked me if I wanted to audition for The Music Man with her, and I did. I ended up booking the role of Amaryllis and was immediately bitten by the musical theatre bug!
Theatre Trip: From there, how did things evolve into a career as an artistic/casting director?
Jill: I started off as a performer at the age of 11. And I got my Equity card at the age of 21 with the national tour of A Chorus Line. As a performer, I got to travel the world and work with top directors and choreographers. I was very fortunate along the way to get to assist many of these directors and to be dance captain for many of the shows. From these incredible experiences of working along side the creative team, I fell in love with the casting process and everything that it takes behind the scenes to put on a great show!
“There is something so magical about a young artist being still and just telling a great story through song.” – Jill Townsend
Theatre Trip: What is one of the biggest mistakes that you see young actors make when auditioning for musicals?
Jill: One of the biggest mistakes that I see young actors make, is to be overly prepared in their acting choices or overly choreographed in their singing audition. There is a fine line in being prepared and being overly prepared where young actors can’t make adjustments in the room because they have practiced it so much a certain way. I also don’t like to see overly choreographed vocal selections. There is something so magical about a young artist being still and just telling a great story through song.
Theatre Trip: Do you have any advice for young actors on how to make better first impressions at their auditions?
Jill: For me, a great first impression is made when an actor comes in to the audition room showing me their personality. It’s important to get a glimpse of who they are as a person. Also, have fun! I think actors always forget that most creatives behind the table are rooting for them to be the perfect fit for their show. So relax (as much as you can) and have fun with the experience!
Theatre Trip: Do you have any advice for parents on how they can best support their children in their theatrical endeavors?
Jill: I think parents can support their children in their theatrical endeavors by teaching them that working on their craft is the most important thing they can do. In this American Idol world of instant success, it’s the ones who study and train who truly have longevity in the business. At San Diego Musical Theatre, we were thrilled to launch the Academy last year, where young actors and adults can train in a safe supportive environment led by industry professionals. Starting a program like this will help parents give their young aspiring performers a leg up in the industry that we all love!
Did you see Freaky Friday at San Diego Musical Theatre?
Or were you a part of the show? If so, feel free to say hi in the comments below! And in the meantime, you can always check out our blog post archive of past theatre visits for some insight on what’s going on in theaters around the world!
* A special thanks to San Diego Musical Theatre for inviting us to the show!
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Author: Stacy Karyn
Stacy Karyn is the founder of Theatre Trip, author of The Thespian’s Bucket List, and creator of The Cast Album List. She holds a BA in theatre, a TESOL drama certificate, and has worked and interned with Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters.