Mother-Daughter Story with Message about Understanding

Mother-Daughter Story with Message about Understanding

Westfield High presents the musical, ‘Freaky Friday.’

From left are Peter Dalton, Grace Lopez (as Ellie in the mom’s body), Riley Burden, and Thursday Butler (as the mom in Ellie’s body).

From left are Peter Dalton, Grace Lopez (as Ellie in the mom’s body), Riley Burden, and Thursday Butler (as the mom in Ellie’s body).

Ellie Blake, 16, and her mom Katherine have a contentious relationship and wish they could be in each other’s bodies for a brief time to see things through each other’s eyes. Then, after singing the song, “Just One Day,” while holding a magic hourglass, they swap minds. 

That’s the premise of Westfield High’s upcoming musical, “Freaky Friday.” The curtain rises Thursday-Friday, May 2-3, at 7 p.m.; and Saturday, May 4, at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $15, adults; $10, students, at the door and via

Based on the popular novel and hit Disney movie, it features a cast and crew of 50. “It’s a heartwarming show, appropriate for all ages,” said Director Enza Giannone-Hosig. “We have very talented performers, including some great newcomers. And with lots of graduating seniors, it’s nice to see them passing on their skills to the younger generation.”

Since “Freaky Friday” takes the stage the weekend before Mother’s Day, a mother-daughter-themed event is planned for the May 4 matinee. “We’re telling moms and daughters attending that show to swap outfits with each other,” said Giannone-Hosig. “Then we’ll have a fashion show at intermission, plus mother-daughter shoutouts and a photo booth.”

She chose this play in honor of her own daughter “because there’s nothing more conflicting and complex than a mother-daughter relationship. And that’s why this show has stood the test of time. I love things everyone can relate to – and in ‘Freaky Friday,’ this family has been through something difficult and is trying to find happiness again.”

“It’s also a reminder that, often, parents and children need to step back and think about what each other is going through,” continued Giannone-Hosig. “When they do that, their relationship becomes stronger.”

Portraying the mom, Katherine Blake, is junior Grace Lopez. “She and her daughter don’t get along as well as they did before her husband, Ellie’s dad, died three years earlier,” said Lopez. “Now she’s in her 40s and about to remarry. She’s organized, punctual, likes to be in charge, and has her own catering business.”

But after the switch when Katherine “becomes” Ellie, explained Lopez, “As a teenager, she’s messy, likes to do things her own way, fights with her little brother Fletcher and bullies him. She’s also witty, snarky and awkward – especially around Adam, her crush. But she has a lot of emotional depth because she’s sad about her dad’s death, so she expresses it by being angry at everyone.”

Enjoying her role, Lopez said, “Me and my mom have a similar relationship, so I can connect to Ellie. It’s challenging because I sing so many songs in this show. But it’s fun because when Ellie’s in the mom’s body, nobody knows they’re living each other’s lives, except for them, so it’s kind of a disaster.”

Her favorite song is “After All of This and Everything,” an emotional ballad. “I’m singing it near the end of the show,” said Lopez. “Ellie finally breaks down and shows what she’s been going through and tells herself that, after everything, it’ll be OK. And it makes me cry because it’s so sad.”

Lopez said audiences will connect with “Freaky Friday’s” mother-daughter dynamic because “it’s the strongest one you have in your life. And it reminds people to appreciate your moms while you still have them. There’s also a dramatic and emotional aspect to this play that’s hidden behind the lines. We’ve all worked really hard on this show, and everyone will be able to relate to the characters.”

Senior Thursday Butler plays Ellie. “She’s informal, has bad manners, is grumpy and is always rolling her eyes at her mom and future stepdad,” said Butler. “But as the mom, she’s a hardworking perfectionist, social, outgoing and polite. Katherine’s maybe willfully ignorant of the trouble Ellie’s having since her dad died. And she’s more connected to her son Fletcher since he’s easier to deal with.”

Butler loves portraying Katherine because, she said, “I’m a lot like her. I have my own, side-hustle cupcake business and do catering, too, so I get where she’s coming from. Ellie often comes last because so many other things demand Katherine’s attention. I understand being the most mature person in the room because I’m already 18; and I’m also a camp counselor so I can relate to Katherine’s maternal, caring side and protectiveness toward others.”

Butler especially likes the song, “What You Got,” which Lopez sings as Ellie. “She performs it amazingly and goes from closed-off, angsty teen to being more open and social,” said Butler. “In her mom’s body, she realizes she can be more confident – and she eventually learns to be that way as Ellie.”

Audiences will love the vocal performances, said Butler, because “the songs are insanely difficult, with many four- or five-part harmonies. And our techies did a great job with the set. The moral of the story is that emotions are complicated – be patient with each other.”

The set will be split, with half showing Ellie’s world and half, Katherine’s. Ellie’s includes her high-school gym with climbing wall and lockers, and Katherine’s shows her kitchen and backyard. And where their worlds overlap, said Butler, “We’ll use the whole stage with cool lighting.”

Sophomore Peter Dalton portrays Adam, who wants to be Ellie’s boyfriend. “He’s popular and cool, but also nice and friendly,” said Dalton. “He seems fun to be around; I’d like being his friend. He flirts with Ellie, not knowing it’s really her mom in Ellie’s body.”

Dalton likes his part because he sings solos in most of the songs and even has his own number, “Women and Sandwiches.” In it, Fletcher’s run away from home because he thinks his mom and sister are mean and don’t like him. “Adam finds him at the bus stop and tries consoling him by comparing women to sandwiches,” said Dalton. “I tell him, with time and understanding, tastes can change.”

He said audiences will enjoy the show’s humor because “it’s a funny musical with jokes for kids to adults. And the songs are creative, with witty lyrics that tell stories and are interesting to listen to.”

Playing Fletcher, 10, is freshman Riley Burden. “He’s infatuated with puppets, so he’s always making big movements and talking loud,” said Burden. “He’s friendly but doesn’t have many friends because he goes everywhere with his puppets – a purple elephant and a yellow starfish, one on each hand – so other kids make fun of him.”

Burden said looking back at his own childhood more in depth informs his role. And, he added, “I get to throw out socially accepted behavior and act like when things were simpler and all you had to do was play and have fun.”

“Watch Your Back” is his favorite song. “The gym teacher is singing to Ellie and the other students – who are doing an obstacle course while singing,” said Burden. “It’s fun to watch, and the rhythms let the actors have a good time performing it. I sing it backstage with the ensemble to amplify the sound onstage.”

He said audiences will like how this show “delves into everyday relationships and makes you think about how you treat your family members. Everyone’s doing a fantastic job singing, and people will be talking about how well they did.”