The Lowell Performing Arts Center will be buzzing this weekend. The Lowell High School spring musical is Freaky Friday, the story of Katherine Blake who spends less and less time focused on her daughter, Ellie. The younger Blake is a teen trying to find her way through life and has become a bit rebellious in the process. The two magically swap bodies which leads to humor and understanding between the two as they see life from the other’s perspective. Spending a day in each other’s body is heartwarming, emotional, and comedic. The production is rated PG.
Amanita Fahrni Returns to Direct
Amanita Fahrni takes on the role of Director for the spring musical for the third year in a row. Following Little Mermaid and Mary Poppins, Fahrni is eager to share Freaky Friday with the community. She loves the show so much she almost swapped last year’s production for this one. She also says she can hear the gasps whenever this is revealed.
A production team looks at factors including casting options, set design, content, character depth, vocal arrangements, theme and message, as well as an overall impression of the show when deciding what the spring musical will be each year. Fahrni was drawn to Freaky Friday because it reminds people to be empathetic to others. It encourages people to think about the perspective of someone else. “The audience gets a birds eye view of what it’s like to be a teenager, a parent, what it’s like to suffer a great loss and how others might recover, how to truly love ourselves and discover who we are.” Fahrni comments.
Creating Magic Through Character and Voice
After taking on two fantasies, Fahrni is looking forward to showcase a story that is more reality based. She notes Ariel’s grotto, a location filled with a lot of color and treasures is replaced by a white kitchen island. Her characters do not fly like Mary Poppins in last year’s production. Elaborate costuming from years past has become more simple with business outfits and typical teenage clothing. However, Fahrni is also quick to point out that this year’s show is still magical. The magic is created through the characters and their voices rather than flashy sets and costumes which is something that has been fun for her to watch over the course of rehearsals.
Fahrni compares this production to Wicked citing an incredible score and vocals. “The ensemble produces harmonies that will make you melt, and the meaning behind the songs will make you laugh and cry within a few seconds of time.” she says. McKenna Grody and Emma Organek are the two female leads who will showcase their amazing lyrics. Male leads Cade Rogers and Gabe Sheppard will show audiences how emotion can be tied to singing.
One challenge Fahrni has had in taking on Freaky Friday is name recognition. Little Mermaid and Mary Poppins are easily recognized titles. Freaky Friday may not be a work that nearly everyone is familiar with and may not have songs people recognize. This doesn’t make it any less entertaining. Those who are not as familiar with the story are invited to learn about it through the performance by Lowell High School students.
Emma Organek plays Ellie Blake, the teenage daughter who swaps bodies with her mom. The senior has been involved with the theater program for the past two years calling it the best thing that has happened to her in her high school career. When asked what she has learned from this year’s experience she says, “What I have learned from being apart of this production is the power of voice and how much I truly enjoy sharing sharing stories with audiences. I’ve also learned what it’s like to have a hard work ethic, have a fun time, and how to breathe, sing, and dance at the same time which is harder than it sounds.” She believes everyone will have a connection to the story being told in Freaky Friday which covers many aspects of life and takes a deep look into relationships everyone goes through.
Teenagers are “AWESOME!” in the eyes of Fahrni. She believes they can get a bad rap because they can be rebellious, like the main character in the show. But she likes to focus on qualities such as being creative, driven, loyal, dedicated, hard working, and eager to have adults see or remember the world through their eyes. “Come see all the positive things these students have done with their time.” Fahrni says encouraging theater lovers. “We love our community and appreciate all the support we’ve received. We want to share this production with them more than anything.”
Sierra Hieshetter is a junior who plays the best friend of the main character. She has been in every theater production since her freshman year. Her character is involved in a lot more dancing than she has done in the past which has been a bit of a learning curve for Hieshetter who has taken on the challenge. She also has had fun with portraying the emotions of her character on stage. “Freaky Friday is a story about the relationships between family members, and testing those relationships in a fun, yet emotional way. Audiences will be able to see themselves reflected in the characters on stage, and they will walk away entertained, but also with a new perspective on their own family relationships.” she says of the production.
Behind the Scenes
In addition to the students the audience will see on stage, there are numerous others working out of sight. Fahrni calls these students unsung heroes. This group is an equal part of the production even if they are never seen. The crew and student musicians provide an important supporting role in any play. Some students worked on creating a car, fountain, monkey bars, gears, clocks, and a bus stop sign which will be seen on stage. This group is also responsible for creating show poster and locker signs, creating projections, endless hours of painting, tailoring costumes, organizing props, applying make up, curling hair, setting lighting cues, running the sound board, miking actors, pulling the curtains, running the sets, adding the spike tape to the stage, making sure musicians are heard, and stay hours after the actors leave.
Student musicians may not be seen but they are heard. They help set a mood and provide accompaniment to those singing on stage. Ryan Virsik is a junior and part of the percussion section of the pit orchestra. He was involved in the production of Mary Poppins calling it an “experience I’ll never forget”. For Virsik it felt right to be part of this year’s spring musical experience. “This being my second year involved with the musical, I’ve learned how much effort and dedication put into these productions.” he says. He notes the long hours the cast and crew have spent preparing for the show but says it all pays off in the end. Virsik encourages everyone to come see Freaky Friday because it’s not only hilarious but a good story.
Get Your Tickets
Auditions for Freaky Friday were the week before Christmas break with rehearsal beginning the week classes resumed. Every day from 3pm – 5pm up until two week prior to opening night students have been going over lines, learning their marks, and getting the sets ready. Last week rehearsal was from 3pm – 6pm, Saturday everyone practices from 8am – 4pm, and this week final touches are put into place from 5pm – 9pm until opening night. There are over 80 students including the student case, musicians, and crew involved in the production of Freaky Friday.
Come and see mother and daughter characters Katherine and Ellie Blake learn to appreciate each other’s struggles and learn they have a bond of mutual love and respect. The Lowell Performing Arts Center Facebook page has been featuring some seniors and their parents, providing information on how each views how life would be like as the other. Freaky Friday will take to the stage at the Lowell Performing Arts Center located at 11700 Vergennes. Show dates are March 6, 7, 13, and 14 at 7pm and March 8 at 2pm. Tickets can be purchased online for $13 or at the door for $15 as long as seats are available.