One of the best things to happen in the world is when a show expresses its appreciation to its fans. Usually, stars of a show just thank the fans on social media. In some cases, like cult favorite Mean Girls, its creators reimagine the movie into a Broadway musical – 13 years later.
Yes, 2017 marks 13 years after the movie awakened every girl and boy’s inner mean girl in 2004 (including mine, when I was 16, a senior and student body president). This fact was referenced in the play with something along the lines of: “Of course I found out about your party (Cady). It’s not like it’s 2004 where nobody has Instagram.” Although there’s no sequel (a legit one I mean, not considering the garbage that was Mean Girls 2) fans were ecstatic when news of a Broadway play based on their favorite movie first came out last year.
On Mean Girls Day 2017 (October 3rd – the date Cady told math classmate Aaron Samuels), the team held an event at Broadway to promote the musical with free cheese fries, sunglasses and even an appearance from the new Regina George and creator Tina Fey herself. (PHOTOS OF THE EVENT AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST.) Naturally I was there, since I was living in Manhattan at that time. Initially I was quite disappointed to learn that the Mean Girls musical wouldn’t be on Broadway until Spring 2018 – that is until thankfully I found out last minute that it was going to start showing previews at The National Theater in Washington DC (a convenient 4-hour bus ride from NYC) on October 31st (Halloween – coincidentally a memorable party scene from the movie) and this was literally 2 days before I left the United States for good. The timing could not have been better, and I couldn’t have asked for a better surprise birthday present.
Online, seats were almost sold out on the opening night so I purchased my ticket immediately the next day for November 1st and the bus tickets soon after that. November 1st 2017 happened to be a Wednesday, and I was hoping more people wore pink like I did. The musical also helped justify taking the trip to DC, in addition to all the amazing free museums and American national monuments I could go to.
(FULL REVIEW BELOW)
Review (Spoilers Ahead)
Since I moved to New York for the first time in late August 2017, I had been watching Broadway and Off-Broadway shows consistently almost every week to make up for lost time. The shows I watched include award-winning musicals The Book of Mormon (loved the offensive humor), Avenue Q (too real with their endearing songs), The Play That Goes Wrong (mostly corny; a Mr. Bean episode is funnier) so although this is my first time doing a Broadway review I think my standards are pretty high.
It begins with Damian and Janis narrating an introduction/context – not that it was needed because the entire theater was completely full of die-hard millennial-age fans like me, who throughout the show could predict one quote after another. (“You can’t sit with us.” “She doesn’t even go here.” *coughs* “Boo, you whore.”) It quickly turned into a song and dance number, which is what most of the almost 3-hour show with 1 intermission consisted of. In fact, at times it felt like there were *too* many song and dance numbers, specifically 24 in total. (Was one really needed for the scene with ‘the limit does not exist’?) While it may have been excessive, I somehow like the fact that there were a lot of times where I didn’t expect the scene to go into a song, but it did. Mean Girls isn’t a regular play; it’s a cool play. Its constant use of LED panels as a backdrop throughout the show, especially with The Burn Book, was innovative and refreshing. Something to definitely watch out for is Regina, Gretchen and Karen’s first appearance. The entrance of The Plastics can only be something that’s truly worthy of Regina George and friends.
The show is basically the movie – with a few minor but definitely noticeable changes. Some I suppose irrelevant scenes were cut out (like fat Regina having a hard time trying on prom dresses) and some were changed (like Regina and Shane Oman hooking up inside the school mascot costume (yes, really) instead of a room in the school gym.) There were still cliques at the cafeteria but it didn’t have an Asian one, nerdy or cool. (Could it be because the new Gretchen is technically a cool Asian herself?) It made some characters more relevant (like Regina’s mom, who even had one song to her name.) It was updated into modern 2017 by incorporating Instagram, selfies, hashtags, Tweeting and dissing Trump (like most Broadway shows I’ve watched have impressively managed to do.)
But two things that I really took offense to and felt personally attacked/betrayed by were:
1) They didn’t use “Jingle Bell Rock.” (Imagine the audience’s anticipation-turned-surprise when the mean girls didn’t sing that song, and instead sang an original Rockin’ Around the Pole.) It must have been really difficult or expensive to get that copyright. Without giving too much away, Regina’s weight gain finally catches up to her in this scene which is another change they made from the movie.
2) Regina George’s new character is essentially the most famous basic bitch in history – Kim Kardashian. Everything from her outfits to constantly being on her smartphone to her obsession with Instagram and most especially speaking in that god-awful bored, nasal tone. I thought this was completely unnecessary and didn’t stay true at all to Rachel McAdam’s portrayal of the character.
Despite how talented she was, I feel like because of this character makeover for a starring role the actress who plays Regina (Taylor Louderman) didn’t have the opportunity to fully showcase what she is capable of as an actor and is hence replaceable, compared to her co-stars. Although possessing a relatively minor role, Kate Rockwell did a phenomenal job of playing dumb-as-bricks Karen. She has perfected the blank stare and the entire audience was in stitches at her scenes. I honestly cannot imagine anyone else playing that character – not even Amanda Seyfried – the same way I can’t imagine anyone else but Taraji P. Henson playing Cookie Lyon on Empire or especially Viola Davis as Annalise Keating on HTGAWM. (I would pay good money to watch the two of them switch roles though. Someone should totally ask SNL to make that happen.)
Kerry Butler who plays three characters including Cady’s Mom and Regina’s Mom, was an exact replica of Tina Fey’s character Mrs. Norbury down to Tina’s voice. Erika Henningsen (Cady) has a powerful singing voice and plenty of exposure, but the ones who really stood out to me were Janis (Barrett Wilbert Weed) in terms of her vocal prowess, and Gretchen (Ashley Park) in terms of both her vocal prowess and acting skills. Ashley really played the part of approval-seeking, easily-agitated minion Gretchen to a tee, and I believe her performance will definitely open new doors for her.
In theater, timing is everything. Everything starting from the actors to the orchestra to the lights and sounds should all be in sync, which is why I have the utmost respect and admiration for theater actors. Every single one of them was a triple threat – in acting, singing and dancing. Imagine never forgetting your lines and singing on key at every scene – all in front of a live audience. Screwing up even just a tiny bit is simply not an option, which is what you can expect from the stars. Here are more tidbits about them, taken from the official Playbill:
Erika Henningsen (Cady): Played Fantine in 2014’s Les Mis on Broadway
Taylor Louderman (Regina): “Just finished starring as Lauren”… in Kinky Boots on Broadway. Made her Broadway debut in Bring It On: The Musical
Ashley Park (Gretchen): Has a Grammy nomination for her role as Tuptim in The King and I; as Mwe in Off-Broadway’s recent hit KPOP
Kate Rockwell (Karen): Like Taylor, she was on Bring It On: The Musical; other theater credits include Legally Blonde
Barrett Wilbert Weed (Janis): No stranger to being involved with mean girls, Barrett “originated the role of Veronica Sawyer in Heathers: The Musical.“
Grey Henson (Damian): Made “his Broadway debut playing Elder McKinley in The Book of Mormon“
Kyle Selig (Aaron Samuels): Played Elder Price in The Book of Mormon
As in all large scale productions like this one, the audition process must have been cut-throat so the ensemble is ultimately made up of a stellar cast of experienced actors with impressive acting résumés. Overall, the Mean Girls Musical did a wonderful fan service to us. Lastly, since it’s a musical after all, like all Broadway hits it had some catchy, memorable songs. Like “Defying Gravity” from Wicked, “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist” from Avenue Q, and “Hello!” from The Book of Mormon, “Revenge Party” from Mean Girls will surely be stuck on your head for the weeks to come.
(End of Review.)
Note: Apologies for inaccuracies, if any. I am writing this review from memory one month after watching the show.
Finally, I want to share this excerpt from another review I loved by The Washington Post that is saturated with references:
“Mean Girls” is about teenage morality, and being true to yourself, and the eternal quest to make “fetch” happen. (It’s not going to happen.) The movie has endured the test of time because it’s so true, and because it’s so endlessly quotable. For 13 years, we’ve been saying “Boo, you whore” and reminding people that Wednesdays is when we wear pink, and cheering for Glen Coco. (You go, Glen Coco!) Are all of these jokes going over your head? Then sorry, you can’t sit with us.
Photos of the Mean Girls Day 2017 Event at Broadway:
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Hi! I'm Kevin, a published travel writer, and this is my travel blog about first and business class flights, airport lounges, shopping, visa information and local travel credit cards for mileage programs. In 2017, I fulfilled my personal goal of visiting over 30 countries before I turned 30 years old and I would be more than glad to help you achieve your own #travelgoals too. ;)