Geoffrey Morris | May/June
Caitlin Kinnunen has spent so much time at Katie Diamond’s High Ridge home that the young Diamond kids thought she was part of the family. While Diamond is not old enough to be Kinnunen’s mother, she’s been sort of a surrogate parent to the 28-year-old Broadway star for more than ten years. And now the two will star together in the mother-daughter roles in Freaky Friday, recently postponed from its scheduled May 14 opening to October 1 at ACT of CT, where Diamond is executive director.
Both women grew up in Seattle and first met when then Katie Tomlinson played a mother figure to 12-year-old Kinnunen in The Secret Garden. “We kept in each other’s field of vision for the next few years,” says Kinnunen, who made her Broadway debut four years later in Spring Awakening. She moved with her mother to New York, where Diamond was then also working on Broadway. “I definitely looked out for her—I mean a 16-year-old girl in New York City,” she says.
Diamond’s career would eventually consist of writing, producing, and starring in numerous musicals and cabaret shows, most notably as Lorraine in Jersey Boys on Broadway. Diamond attended the New England Conservatory of Music, eventually moving to Ridgefield after her years in New York City, with husband Bill and three children.
Two years after moving to New York, the 18-year-old Kinnunen was living alone, and spent a lot of time with Diamond, who had since married. “Once we started having kids, she was over all the time. Not really understanding how genetics work, my kids thought Caitlin was part of the family. I mean, whenever we had a family gathering, like a birthday, the kids would ask: ‘Is Caitlin coming?’”
Yes, she will be coming, staying with the Diamond family during April rehearsals and May and June performances of Freaky Friday. “It’s so exciting. I admire her so much. I have gotten to see her be a mother so now I get to embody that,” says Kinnunen of playing alongside Diamond. “I get to play Katie as a mom. It’s going to be so much fun. I love Ridgefield and will spend all of my time there.”
Based on the popular Disney film, Freaky Friday tells the story of an overworked mother and her teenage daughter who magically swap bodies. By spending a day in each other’s shoes, the two come to appreciate one another’s struggles. The music and lyrics are by the Tony-winning team of Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, “It’s a fun, upbeat musical that is a great way to end our second season—a dance-type show,” says Diamond.
“It’s a magical moment when they switch bodies. They take on each other’s personalities. I become the daughter,” she adds. “She’s just using her body. It’s done through physicalities— how an adult or teenager might stand. This is the teenager trying to looking cool wearing her mother’s clothes.”
After her Broadway debut in Spring Awakening, Kinnunen went on to Bridges of Madison County, and then starred in The Prom, for which she was nominated for a Tony Award. “She’s super-talented, and I’m so glad it worked out that she gets to perform with me at ACT,” says Diamond.
Not only does the show have two female leads, but the director (Mia Walker) and choregorapher (Abbey O’Brien) are women as well. “It’s amazing that it’s all women,” says Kinnunen. “Freaky Friday shows the relationship between mother and daughter. A female director can really tell that story properly. And I really want to tell that story. That we can do it with a female led team is so great.”