Westfield High School
It's the day before a family's grandiose wedding and everything is suspected to be in order. Staff? Check. Food Preparations? Check. An angsty teen against the whole ordeal? Check! However, when an argument between mother and daughter spirals into the two switching bodies, they must rely on some loving patience and a bit of teamwork to set things straight. In an engaging take on a contemporary classic, Langley High School explores the themes of compassion and self-acceptance in their vivacious yet lighthearted production of Freaky Friday.
This exciting production is based on Mary Rodgers' 1972 novel Freaky Friday. The stage adaptation was written by Pulitzer Prize winners Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey and was adapted into several films before hitting the stage. The plot centers around a controlling mother and a rebellious daughter who, amid a family feud, explore life in each other's shoes. Through acts of comedy and sentimentality, the two bond over valuable lessons of empathy and their shared love.
By enticing their audiences through well-crafted ensemble numbers and authenticity, Langley High School laid the framework for a solid 90s-esque show to boot. A particularly captivating number was "Go," where the ensemble of "students" donned flashlights in near pitch-black darkness, using the auditorium to their advantage by running through the aisles and out the doors to simulate a sense of eeriness and excitement that resonated with the crowd.
As the true stars of the family, Ellie and Katherine Blake, played by Tiffany Bennett and Claire Stephenson, both stole the show with incredibly powerful harmonies, an undisputed exhibition of chemistry, and nuanced acting expertise to match. Tasked with embodying each other's character, they tackled the obstacle with a deep understanding of their personalities and body language. Also fantastic was Ellie's "little" love interest, Adam, played by Conor Farah. His remarkably high-reaching vocals and onstage presence made his performance impressive to behold.
Ellie's innocently annoying younger brother, Fletcher, played by Caleb Toronto, won the audience's hearts with his childlike quips and animal-puppet sidekicks. On school grounds, Dr. Ehrin, played by Talia-Rose Diorio, provided phenomenally risqué comic relief that constantly had the audience roaring in laughter. Alongside her was Ms. Meyers, played by Samantha Brunjes. Her hilarious demeanor, paired with a bawdy personality and her "evocative" dance movements that had the audience going wild, made her role as the school's gym teacher all the more humorous.
The show contained many complicated set changes and quick transitions, which were executed swiftly and efficiently. In addition, the set's realism was captivating (Teddy Spaner, Killian Korchnak, Tori Ransom, Vic Scarpato), and included a spray-painted set of usable lockers, a simple yet ingenious front-facing car, and a moveable kitchen wall that was complete with multiple cupboards, a sink, and kitchen props (Annabelle Bozarth, Alina He). The atmosphere of the scenes was heightened by impeccable lighting designs (Mary Muir, Cassie Keating, Erin Young, Atlas Zecca), and the half professional, half student-led orchestra supported the singers flawlessly. Most impressive was the 5-minute special effects timer coded by Kira Lentz, adding the icing on the cake to the show's ingenuity.
Overall, Langley High School's production of Freaky Friday was both heartwarming and heart-pumping, leaving an inspiring message to love those who care for you, and to always "Be the person you never thought you'd be."
James Madison High School
What would it take to defy everything you've ever known in just one day? A scavenger hunt? A wedding? A magical hourglass? This question was answered in Langley High School's production of Freaky Friday, where science fiction meets reality and a mother and daughter must truly meet each other for the first time.
The story is as follows: On a seemingly ordinary day, busy mother, Katherine, and her teenage daughter, Ellie, get into a fight resulting in a broken hourglass. Little do they know the magic it possesses before they are magically zapped into each other's bodies. Now they must spend the day pretending to be the other person: Ellie as her mother frantically putting together the pieces of her wedding set to take place the next day, and Katherine as her daughter at school to confront her crush, her bully, and her failing report card. They must work together to switch back and learn to appreciate the other's hardships in the process. Originally a book, followed by several movie adaptations, Freaky Friday the musical premiered in 2016, at Signature Theatre here in Virginia.
What truly carried this production was the chemistry between all actors in the cast. The chaotic and accurate family dynamic between Katherine and Ellie as well as little brother Fletcher and mom's new fiancé, Mike, was pleasing and heartwarming to see, especially as it progressed throughout the show. Starting with moments like Fletcher and Ellie calling each other names, and ending with sweet, intimate moments like Mike carrying Fletcher to bed after he had fallen asleep in his mom's lap. Every interaction between the actors was timed and delivered perfectly to create the dysfunctional family picture that everyone knows so well. On top of the family, the entire ensemble felt like one cohesive unit throughout the show, seamlessly blending and interacting with each other to create the buzz that filled the stage everywhere you looked.
Tiffany Bennett and Claire Stephenson as Ellie and Katherine were an unforgettable pair in every way. Bennett was a show-stopping vocalist with a smooth and consistent tone all the way through. Stephenson portrayed the picture of a teenage girl trapped in a 40-year-old's body, including loud gestures and animated expressions. This was achieved, however, without sacrificing the beautiful character arc of coming to find a sweet spot for the family she previously disliked. The actor was able to find moments to be softer which complimented the rest of the choices and made the performance that much better. Together, the actors' voices and energies matched flawlessly and created a leading duo that could carry the show through to success.
Conor Farah played the role of Ellie's romantic interest, Adam, and did so with the ease and swagger of any archetypal high school heartthrob. Caleb Toronto played Fletcher and brought much to the role, committing to the silly baby brother role without losing the humanity and emotions behind the character.
The costume design by Ella Smith was fantastic; high schoolers and adults alike accurately looked their age with subtle but effective styling choices. The lighting, designed by Mary Muir, was fun and bright, including colorful backlights, a smoothly operated spot, and a projection to show the magic taking place as the lead characters switched bodies. The stage crew was especially impressive between every scene change, transitioning smoothly and quickly like they were never even there.
Langley High School put on an astounding production of Freaky Friday, that the cast and crew should surely be proud of, today and every day.