By Cheryl Laughlin – In planning a trip to NYC, I knew the trifecta of awesomeness I wanted to align – Tribeca Film Fest, Women You Should Know Fearless Fest and yep – Mean Girls on Broadway. Sure, I’ve seen Broadway musicals here and there and even in San Francisco but never a bona fide Broadway show in its native neighborhood. And I knew immediately, Mean Girls had to be THE choice.
The film lover/screenwriter geek in me had to see firsthand what kind of kick ass adaptation came from a film and now Broadway rendition written by Tina Fey, music by her husband Jeff Richmond, lyrics by Nell Benjamin, and direction and choreography by Casey Nicholaw. And spoiler alert – this collab so did not disappoint.
Seeing the Broadway version of Mean Girls feels like being sucked into a magical wormhole where 2004 nostalgia merged with female-strong updates. I don’t know how she does it, but I guess that is the ethereal brilliance of all things Tina Fey.
Of course, the big question is, “Will fans of the film love the musical?” Well, thanks for asking because Mean Girls the Musical refueled my slightly battered creative heart. I clapped almost nonstop like a total fan girl and didn’t feel out of place – the whole crowd was just as swept away. And considering Mean Girls just received 12 Tony nominations, those in the know must have felt the same magic.
Let’s start with nostalgia.
The heart and soul of Mean Girls fetchiness is still there. The musical delivers on that overwhelming feeling of high school angst and the messy inner dialogue of sussing out where you fit in this roller coaster time in your life.
Cady Heron, played by the super fabulous Erika Henningsen, pulls you right back into life at a North Shore High School that is part animal kingdom and part Plastics, compliments of Queen Bee Taylor Louderman and backed by Ashley Park and Kate Rockwell. This powerful triumvirate actually made me want to be a Plastic simply for their swept-you-away singing talents.
And fans of the film won’t be disappointed when Janis, played by Barrett Wilbert Weed, and Damian, played by Grey Henson, strut on stage to actually narrate the story. I seriously could not get enough of Henson’s brilliant comedic timing and, I swear, it felt like the whole audience was just waiting for, “She doesn’t even go here!”
Now, the fabulous updates.
The songs rally around the new flavor of this Mean Girls on Broadway. Fey acknowledges the changes in female messaging since the 2004 film as she moderns up the musical. She skates just shy of schmaltzy as she lets Cady and lead Plastic Regina realize there’s more at play here than just general cattiness. That high school is actually where the we might actually realize women should be raising other women up.
The song “Fearless” kicks all that into perspective from the first rendition to the reprisal where Cady fully realizes what fearless really is – more than replacing the status quo Queen Bee “From now on I’m gonna be fearless… not hunching your shoulders, to make yourself small, to walk right down, the middle of the hall, not smal, not small, NOT SMALL…”
The whole cast totally swoops everyone into full fan mode. And the coup de grace? The great use of changing settings wrap everything up into a pretty pink Mean Girls bow. Seriously, you wonder how they could possibly create high school and the mall and all the other settings that brought Mean Girls to life?
Here’s how – desks slide in and out with amazing synchronized choreography, lunch trays turn into acoustic toys, costume design takes Plastics outfits to new fabulousness and sliding back drops with digital images make you forget it’s all just a stage.
But hey don’t let me be the one telling you what’s “grool”. Check it out for yourself if you’re in NYC at the August Wilson Theatre playing through March 2019 or the national tour sets out in fall 2019.
About The Author
Cheryl Laughlin covers all things screenwriter for Script Magazine. And it’s possible twice now she has run through the house like Anne Hathaway accepting her Oscar – once after learning of her short script win at the Sacramento International Film Fest and again for Top 10% in the prestigious Nicholl Fellowship. When she’s not screenwriting or editing screenplays, she tweets her support of all things indie film @cheryllaughlin. She also believes you can never say please and thank you enough for all the kindnesses to your creativity along the way.