MUSICAL: Mean Girls
WHERE: Pre-Broadway run at the National Theatre DC (Oct 31st to Dec 3rd)
Previews begin on March 12th, 2018 at the August Wilson Theatre on Broadway with the official opening on April 8th.
THE MOVIE vs THE MUSICAL: As many millennials would say, the Mean Girls movie is probably one of the most iconic movies of our childhoods. Almost every other line from the movie is quotable, and many have become ingrained in our 21st-century culture. So naturally, I had to see the musical in its pre-Broadway run in DC (and if I didn’t have enough of a reason to love Tina Fey’s work, Fey is an alum of my University #Wahoowa).
I’ve watched several Broadway adaptations of movies: Lion King, Waitress, Groundhog Day, and now Mean Girls. What makes the Mean Girls musical different from the rest is that I think having watched the movie enhances the musical experience. I hadn’t watched the movies that inspired Waitress or Groundhog Day, but I made sure my entire family watched the movie before I brought them to watch Mean Girls. While I do think people will definitely enjoy the film “irregardless” (as Gretchen Weiners says in both the movie and musical), having seen the movie will definitely allow you to appreciate the references a little more.
But just how similar are the movie and musical? They are definitely not identical – the musical added a ton of additional dialogue and hilarious jokes. But what about the iconic references? Almost every single one – from Damian being “too gay to function” to October 3rd to the “You can’t sit with us” to Danny DeVito and “Four for you Glen Coco” – was made in some shape or form. The only funny moment from the movie that I immediately noticed was missing was an early scene in which Ms. Norbury mistakenly welcomes the wrong student in the class as Cady Heron. Some lines from the movie had a word or two changed, or some slang was brought up to smart-phone-era equivalents (because of course, this is the North Shore HS of 2017, not 2004). The projector-room sex scandal was changed to an even funnier location, we had a Zombie Hillbilly instead of a Zombie Bride, and some minor plot changes were made to the second half. But don’t worry, Grool and Fetch made the cut! It definitely was cool to see how smart phones, Trump as President, modern lingo like “Basic AF”, and social media/emojis would play out in the Mean Girls world, a world now devoid of three-way calls. Some of my favorite parts were, just like the movie, when the scene suddenly went from the calm human world to the violent, wild animal world!
THE CHARACTERS and CAST: I really believe the show was brilliantly cast. Erika Henningsen played Cady Heron amazingly well. Grey Henson stole the show early on with the crowd-favorite Damian; the audience was cheering Damian on after everything he said or did. Barrett Wilbert Weed played Janis Sarkisian with great attitude and toughness and humor. Kyle Selig’s interpretation of Aaron Samuels was great – Aaron was thoughtful and just really genuine. He wasn’t just the good-looking love interest. While Taylor Louderman’s Regina George was definitely different than Rachel McAdam’s in the movie – Louderman’s interpretation was great. Louderman’s Regina was much more sultry, singing “I’m Regina George, and I’m a massive deal”, but just as conniving as Regina ought to be. Ashley Park played the insecure Gretchen Weiners perfectly – at multiple points I actually felt really sorry for Gretchen’s situation. Kate Rockwell was also spectacular as Karen Smith – if you thought Karen was funny in the movie, she is hilarious in the musical. Rick Younger and Cheech Manohar embodied the personalities of Principal Duvall and Kevin Gnapoor respectively exactly as audiences would want them to. Kevin G. especially I think is really hard to play. Manohar didn’t replicate the character exactly like in the movie; however, his interpretation of why audiences love Kevin G. was spot-on. Kerry Butler, as expected, was fantastic as Mrs. Heron (Cady’s Mom), Mrs. George (Regina’s Mom), and Ms. Norbury. Honestly I would’ve thought she were three different actresses. Her Mrs. Heron was just like the movie’s, and I literally thought she was Tina Fey as Ms. Norbury – she nailed that role. And her Mrs. George was definitely a “cool mom”.
Also, I’m a huge fan of representation and diversity in the performing arts, so it was great to see multiple actors of Asian descent in the show!
THE MUSIC: I think one concern people had before watching the show was the music. I’m here to squash those qualms! The music was “so fetch” that I wish the Broadway Cast recording was out right now so I could jam along. I think many musicals lately, such as Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, Waitress, Groundhog Day, etc, have been doing a great job of creating music with both modern and classic Broadway elements. Mean Girls does exactly that. The music was upbeat, catchy, and really demonstrated every performer’s amazing vocal range. Karen had a hilarious song, Gretchen’s song made me really feel and connect with her, and I know that my mom sitting next to me was getting emotional relating to Mrs. George’s song. The songs were wonderful additions to the show and the choreography, from beats with red cafeteria trays to twerking and step dancing, was lively and energetic. The only thing I wished for was more of Kevin G’s rap during the talent show and more time to process the hilarious mayhem that was happening during the end of Rockin’ Around the Pole.
I would say there isn’t any one single standout showstopper song though, and perhaps that is something this great score is missing.
THE SET and COSTUMES: The technology on set was awesome with full moving LED screens, 180 degrees around the back of the stage, that allowed for endless possibilities. The cafeteria tables and classroom desks on wheels brought a dynamic element to the show and were really well utilized. And of course, the costumes were as fetch as they should be. Shout-out to the Bud Knight Halloween costume and the amazing, transformational re-enactment of a fan-favorite movie during the first act of the North Shore Talent Show. Aided by the LED walls, the set expertly flowed from the North Shore hallways to cafeteria to classrooms to the gym to Africa to a shopping mall to Regina and Cady’s homes to the street where (spoiler?) Regina gets hit by a bus.
STAGE-DOORING: I had an amazing time meeting so many cast members after the show. I had great conversations with many, and they were all so kind to spend time the night before Thanksgiving signing Playbills and interacting with the fans. And I always love when performers are especially nice to little kids at the stage door – adorable to see. Nothing else to say but that the performers are all both talented and extremely kind!
OVERALL: Definitely a must see (“because that’s just like, the rules of feminism”, right?) As a fan of the movie, I may be a little biased, but they definitely did the movie justice and added tons of additional jokes and moments beyond the movie coupled with amazing music to make it so very worthwhile to watch. If you’re a fan of the movie or if you’re a fan of live theatre (or both!), grab yourself a seat with at the table with the Plastics as soon as you can!
(Oh, and don’t forget to wear pink, especially if you watch the show on a Wednesday like I did)
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