Freaky Friday Star Heidi Blickenstaff Explains Biggest Stage-to-Screen Changes (Plus, Grade the Movie)

Freaky Friday Disney Channel

If you just watched the premiere of Disney Channel’s Freaky Friday and thought star Heidi Blickenstaff looked right at home in the role of straight-laced Katherine Blake, it’s because she is.

Prior to being cast opposite Cozi Zuehlsdorff in the TV movie, Blickenstaff originated the role of Katherine in the stage production of Freaky Friday, which opened in Washington, D.C. in Oct. 2016. She and co-star Emma Hunton (soon to appear on Freeform’s Fosters spinoff Good Trouble) then brought the show to San Diego, Cleveland and Houston from Jan. to July 2017.

So, yeah, when Blickenstaff sings her part in the song “I Got This,” she means it.

Loosely inspired by all previous incarnations, this latest Freaky Friday finds neat-freak chef Katherine unwittingly swapping bodies with her free-spirited daughter Ellie (played by Zuehlsdorff) on the eve of her wedding. It also happens to be the night of The Hunt, a citywide scavenger hunt organized by Ellie’s crush. Madness and dance numbers ensue, sending the entire Blake family — including Ellie’s brother Fletcher, played by Raven’s Home‘s Jason Maybaum — on a journey of personal and interpersonal growth.

Blickenstaff is the first person to admit that the experience of filming Freaky Friday was completely different from performing it on the road. Along with the absence of a live audience (“You were up my butt with a coconut” she said upon hearing that I sat in the second row of a D.C. performance), certain changes were made while transitioning the project from stage to screen — including the removal of several songs.

For “selfish” reasons, Blickenstaff says she would put back “After All of This and Everything,” a ballad in which Ellie (in Katherine’s body) apologizes to Fletcher, explaining that even though parents aren’t perfect, they’ll always have his back. The song was recorded for the movie, and Blickenstaff says the creative team wanted to keep it, but no one could figure out the right way to present it.

“That song takes place with me in a La-Z-Boy chair with a sleeping little boy in my lap,” Blickenstaff explains. “It’s one of those magical theatrical moments where it’s all about the audience watching a singer in one place. You can sustain that on stage, but that’s really difficult to do cinematically. They came up with all these different ideas — maybe she’d be walking through the house, looking at photos on the wall — but they just couldn’t make it active enough.”

Another song Blickenstaff wishes she could have salvaged is “Busted,” in which Katherine and Ellie — along with several other pairs of parents and children — discover each other’s vices. “That was a really good one,” she says, “and I think it would have been really fun in the movie.”

And because I always have to be that guy, I asked Blickenstaff about the movie’s magical (and musical) climax, when Katherine and Ellie return to their original bodies in flurry of lights and colors… in front of all the wedding guests. It’s a moment she and Zuehlsdorff actually discussed with director Steve Carr.

“I was like, ‘Do you think maybe the guests will be freaked out?'” she recalls with a laugh. “But that’s one of those suspension of disbelief things. The show is inherently magical, and we’re hoping that if you can believe that their souls would swap, we’re also going to believe that the guests would be totally fine watching their bodies change places.”

Your thoughts on Freaky Friday? For fans of the musical, which changes stood out to you the most? Grade it below, then drop a comment with your full review.