With their current production of the musical Freaky Friday, Chaffin’s Barn Dinner Theatre (8204 Hwy 100, Nashville, TN 37221) is striking while the Freaky Friday iron is hot by presenting the regional premiere of the mother/daughter body-switching musical/comedy starring Chaffin’s resident Artistic Director Martha Wilkinson as mom, Katherine and Anna Carroll as daughter, Ellie. This is especially true when you consider the fact that the musical adaptation made its debut at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia in 2016 and exactly one year ago this week, on January 31, 2017, Disney Theatrical Productions’ Freaky Friday debuted at the La Jolla Playhouse with subsequent mountings featuring the La Jolla cast in both Cleveland and Houston. Then there’s the recent news that Disney Channel has announced intent for a made-for-TV presentation of the musical.
Of course none of the fascination with Freaky Friday would be possible had it not been for musical composer and children’s book author Mary Rogers (daughter of famed Broadway composter Richard Rogers) who first introduced audiences to the “if I could be you for just one day” antics of Freaky Friday in book form in 1972. Since then, and before the latest musical theatre incarnation, there have been three book sequels, three Disney film adaptations (two cinematic, one for TV) and even a couple of lesser-known TV and movie sequels of the sequel books.
Being a fan of the original book as well as the three Disney movie versions, and with Chaffin’s Barn’s Freaky Friday continuing Thursdays-Saturdays now through February 17, I thought it would be fun to chat with the show’s director, Bradley Moore and members of the ensemble cast for my latest recurring interview feature, Rapid Fire 20 Q.
Rapid Fire 20 Q WITH FREAKY FRIDAY DIRECTOR, BRADLEY MOORE AND CAST MEMBERS CHRISTINA CANDILORA, SANTAYANA HARRIS AND DANIEL CARRASQUILLO
RAPID FIRE WITH CHRISTINA CANDILORA, TORREY IN CHAFFIN’S BARN’S FREAKY FRIDAY
JONATHAN PINKERTON: Tell me about the character you play in Freaky Friday?
CHRISTINA CANDILORA: I play Katherine’s assistant, Torrey. She is a controlled caffeinated neurotic ball of nervous energy with a pinch of OCD. She takes pride in whatever she does and with her relationship with Katherine.
JP: Audiences likely remember Freaky Friday the Disney movies. Of course the original story was presented initially in a novel by Mary Rogers. Have you ever read the book?
CHRISTINA CANDILORA: Never read it.
JP: Torrey is Katherine’s assistant. That means you share scenes with Martha Wilkinson as Katherine, but also with Anna Carroll as Ellie, who after the switch ‘becomes’ Katherine. How has it been working with these two?
CHRISTINA CANDILORA: I have worked with Anna Carroll in another show, she is wonderful. She is very committed and is not afraid to take chances. I am loving every second with Martha. We both did Mamma Mia but didn’t have any scene work together. I feel very fortunate getting to play with her. She is a master class on stage.
JP: As you mentioned, you were recently seen on stage at Chaffin’s Barn as an ensemble member of their production of Mamma Mia, also directed by Bradley Moore. How is he as a director?
CHRISTINA CANDILORA: He’s a fantastic director. I appreciate Bradley’s vision. Everything is outlined and he knows what he wants and how to execute it. I love that he always has an answer for any question we might have in regards to what might be going on in the world we are creating.
JP: Something I’ve always been curious about…Chaffin’s is unique in that the stage is in the center, with audience tables on all four sides…what challenges does that present as far as delivery and staging?
CHRISTINA CANDILORA: Personally, I find it terrifying. I don’t like to see anyone in the audience, and with this stage they are basically part the set, inches away from you. It has been a teaching experience as far as presentation and how to work the room.
JP: OK, I can’t do Q&A about Freaky Friday without asking….IF you could change lives with anyone for 24 hours, who would it be and why?
CHRISTINA CANDILORA: hmm that’s a tough one. Possibly J.K. Rowling…because I am a nerd. I want to know what its like to have those characters and that world in your head and how she goes about the creative process writing a book. It has been something that I have been trying to do for a few years now.
RAPID FIRE WITH SANTAYANA HARRIS, HANNAH IN CHAFFIN’S BARN’S FREAKY FRIDAY
JP: Who is Hannah and what are you bringing to the role?
SANTAYANA HARRIS: In the show Hannah is best friends with Ellie and Gretchen. She is the hacker- geek nerdy girl. Hannah is the type of girl that everyone looks over but she has the smarts that will land her a position with the Secret Service someday! In this role I will be pulling forward the more comedic side of her personality and show everyone that “nerdy girls” can rock n’ roll as well!
JP: Alright, I just have to say I loved you in Expression City’s Hairspray. It was this time last year that you were on stage there as Motormouth Maybelle. You might say that role allowed you to do a bit of Freaky Friday action yourself, playing a character much older than your true age. Now you’re playing a character closer to your own age. What’s the best part of playing a teen?
SANTAYANA HARRIS: Thank you! The best part of playing a teen is it reminds me of the wonderful realizations that I experienced at this age. For example, having an excuse to try new things where experimentation turned out to be a great adventure. Whether it was trying the new “fire engine red” hair color or trying a new fashion trend that when you look back in time it was a bad idea! This role is fun for me because it shows that life can be filled with exciting moments!
JP: This isn’t your first show with Chaffin’s is it? What’s the experience been like so far?
SANTAYANA HARRIS: This is my second show with Chaffin’s. I was in their previous production A Wonderful Life. Everyone from directors to the actors has been great and lots of fun to work alongside! This cast has really great chemistry and it is going to render an exceptional show!!
JP: The obvious message within Freaky Friday is ‘watch out what you wish for, you just might get it’. Have you discovered other lessons while preparing for this production?
SANTAYANA HARRIS: Yes. The lesson that I discovered while preparing for this production is: Sure, there are elements of our lives we wish were a little different but loving and accepting yourself for who you are brings true happiness to full fruition.
RAPID FIRE WITH DANIEL CARRASQUILLO, PARKER IN CHAFFIN’S BARN’S FREAKY FRIDAY
JP: Tell me about Parker Harrison?
DANIEL CARRASQUILLO: Parker is the stereotypical skater boy that gets along with everybody. A complete bro. He’s very chill the person that everybody knows very well and has no problems with him at all! Kind of the class clown!
JP: If you could Freaky Friday into another role in the show, regardless of whether you’re ‘right for the role or not’, which character would it be and why?
DANIEL CARRASQUILLO: I have thought about this and i think it would be fun to play Adam or Ellie. Adam because every time he enters a room everybody just sings his name and then continues on with their day. Ellie because she’s the typical teenager that doesn’t give any cares in the world so the interactions with the older adults are completely out of character when she switches bodies with her mom. It’s hilarious!
JP: While researching to chat with you and your Freaky Friday co-stars, I stumbled upon an article in your hometown paper from Cleveland, Tennessee about your film extra work in the hugely popular Divergent entry, Insurgent. What’s your favorite memory from that experience?
DANIEL CARRASQUILLO: I did! I got the chance to be in Insurgent and Allegiance. It was a really amazing time! I got to hangout with Theo James, Shailene Woodley, and Ansel Elbert. There was one scene where I had to fight against Theo James, everyone knows he’s a pretty muscular dude, and i had to dodge this punch he did and i didn’t have the right timing and he actually punched me in the face. He flipped out and told everyone to stop and asked me if i was ok and i was on the floor holding my eye “yeah I’m good.” But I was also thinking “oh my god i can’t believe he just punched me! Thank you for punching me cause you’re awesome!”. Haha! In general he was extremely nice and we rehearsed a couple more times and eventually got everything right!
JP: According to the character bios, Parker is Wells’ brother. In Chaffin’s production, Wells is played by Austin Olive. What would be the best thing about having Austin as a brother in real life? AND…What aspect of Austin’s personality would get you in the most trouble if he were your sibling?
DANIEL CARRASQUILLO: Austin is hilarious! He always makes these silent comments that I only hear and it’s hilarious! If he was my actual brother, I feel like I would be able to look up to him for advice and ask him about workout tips cause Austin has a lot of muscle! I also feel like he would stick up for me if anyone tried to pick on me. I’d probably get in trouble with him because we just make jokes the entire time. So we’d probably get in trouble just by talking so much and laughing!
RAPID FIRE WITH BRADLEY MOORE, DIRECTOR OF CHAFFIN’S BARN’S FREAKY FRIDAY
JP: Is this the regional premiere of Freaky Friday?
BRADLEY MOORE: It is! Actually, it’s a little more than that. There is another professional theatre in Illinois that opened Freaky Friday the weekend we opened as well, and these are the first productions of the show outside of the original runs in DC and La Jolla.
JP: OK, I gotta be honest, until you posted that you’d be directing Chaffin’s Freaky Friday, I had kinda forgotten that the musical debuted just outside DC in 2016 and then enjoyed a run in La Jolla last year. When did you become aware of the musical?
BRADLEY MOORE: About a year ago, Martha Wilkinson and I were putting the finishing touches on our 2017 season when it was announced that the musical version of Freaky Friday was available for professional licensing. We were both very intrigued, but didn’t know a lot about the musical itself outside of the name recognition and the three movies that have been made. We decided to apply for the rights just to see if it would even be an option. I then did a bunch of research on the show. I read everything I could about the process of writing it and its conception. When Disney and MTI granted us the rights, we were ecstatic! They sent us a pre-release CD copy of the cast recording and I have been listening to it ever since. We have had the rights for about 11 months, so this production feels like a long time coming.
JP: What is it about the show that drew you to direct it?
BRADLEY MOORE: Well first off, the music is infectious. It is Disney, but not too young. It has elements that will appeal to people at every age. At the end of the day, it is an extremely well-written modern musical. I also saw it as a huge challenge to stage in The Barn space. It takes place in a lot of locations and requires a lot of moving parts. It gave me the opportunity to use The Barn performance space in a new, fresh way which I always love doing.
JP: Depending on their age (and viewing habits), audiences’ memories of Freaky Friday might likely be the 1976 Barbara Harris/Jodie Foster debut film or the 2003 Jamie Lee Curtis/Lindsay Lohan redo, but knowing your affection for Shelley Long, I’m guessing her almost forgotten 1995 made-for-TV version co-starring Gaby Hoffman might have something to do with your interest in the franchise?
BRADLEY MOORE: Haha! Most people forget about that one! I grew up watching the Jodie Foster/Barbara Harris version of the film. I had probably seen it 15 times by the time I was 10 years old. And yes, I believe I had the Shelley Long/Gaby Hoffman made-for-TV movie recorded on a VHS tape that I ended up wearing out at some point. And also, I love Jamie Lee Curtis. I have seen all of them, but none of them in probably 10 years. And even though I do have an affinity for Shelley Long, I will usually always compare everything to the original. The great thing about all three films and the musical is that they took the main idea, a mother and daughter switching bodies, but always kept the story in present day and freshened up the circumstances that surround the two main characters. There is a familiarity to it, but you are not walking in knowing every single thing that happens.
JP: Freaky Friday is Chaffin’s final show before closing the doors to undergo major renovations, with a projected return in the fall. What does that mean to you?
BRADLEY MOORE: It’s an exciting time! We have some surprises up our sleeves that I can not currently discuss, but I will look forward to coming back in August to remount and direct Sister Act.
JP: Speaking of the renovations, can you tell me some of the plans and what patrons can expect when the doors reopen?
BRADLEY MOORE: Design plans are not currently finalized, but I can say that everything will be fresh, pristine, and beautiful. I venture to say that it could be one of the most gorgeous performing arts spaces in Nashville. I am definitely excited about the future.
Chaffin’s Barn Dinner Theatre’s Freaky Friday continues with shows Thursdays-Saturdays now through February 17. As the venue’s name implies, at Chaffin’s you not only have the option of show-only tickets, you also have the opportunity to enjoy a delicious meal prior to showtime. Thursdays feature a box lunch and show option for $27.50 with lunch available beginning at 11 a.m. or show only tickets for $19. Thursday matinee begins at 12 noon. Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening dinner and show tickets are available for $60 for Adults or $30 for Youth/Students with dinner seating beginning at 6:30 p.m. and show starting at 8 p.m. Evening show-only tickets are $35. On February 11, at 2 p.m., Chaffin’s will present a Sunday lunch matinee featuring their usual full buffet dinner and show tickets to the Sunday matinee are $60 or $30 for Youth/Students and $35 for show-only. Click Here to purchase tickets for any remaining performances.
As I mentioned during my chat with Moore, following Freaky Friday’s closing weekend of February 17, Chaffin’s Barn Dinner Theatre will take a temporary break from mounting shows in order to renovate the building. Once renovations are complete, Chaffin’s will be back better than ever, and that’s saying something considering they’ve already made vast improvements in production quality and their delicious buffet offerings following last year’s sale and subsequent new management and ownership.
Chaffin’s will reopen their doors in August for a return encore engagement of last years hit, Sister Act. To keep up with the latest news from Chaffin’s Barn Dinner Theatre, check them out online, on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
If you’ve enjoyed this latest installment of my recurring interview feature, Rapid Fire 20 Q, be sure and check out previous conversations with members of Nashville and Broadway’s most creative artists. Be sure and subscribe to Nashville Arts Critic by entering your email address in the “Subscribe” section to the right of this article. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumbler.