The Review: Mean Girls on Broadway
For anyone who has ever seen any of Tina Fey’s work on the television shows, “30 Rock” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt“, it is perfectly obvious that she knows what she’s doing, especially in the realm of being so very current and very very funny, with a knack of mixing Broadway-style songs into sitcom moments that don’t necessarily require a song and dance. She surrounds herself with talent and seems to effortlessly find the humor in every situation she places her characters. Most notably in the writing of her 2004 movie, ‘Mean Girls’, a comedy gem revolving around a home-schooled teenage girl trying to find her pack in a Chicago High School, a world as unfamiliar to her as we would be in her former backyard, Kenya. An instant classic, gifting our vocabulary with lines and phrases that are as culturally memorable as apple pie almost 15 years later.
Mean Girls, the musical, based partially on Rosalind Wiseman’s 2002 non-fiction self-help book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” is getting this incarnation almost all fantastically fetch (“Gretchen, stop trying to make fetch happen! It’s not going to happen!“) brightening up the Spring season with Pink-filled joy and as “Grool” as you can imagine. After seeing the show in its pre-Broadway run in Washington, D.C., the show was festive and a whole lot of fun, surprising me with its clever updating to our present smart phone world but still in need of an edit, which it seems they have done some tweaks here and there, changing some songs and restructuring others. Fey’s musical stage show book will consistently please even the most diehard of “Mean Girls” fans, and partnered with her husband, Jeff Richmond (Broadway’s Fully Committed) who wrote the music, and Nell Benjamin (Legally Blond) who penned the lyrics, this musical creation does the almost impossible exceedingly well. They have found a way of balancing the telling of Cady’s cultural readjustment tale, a story that we all know and love (if you don’t, schedule a Netflix and chill night, pronto), throwing in every epic quotable lines at the appropriate, and sometimes surprising moments throughout, while also keeping the plot current, unique, and far enough away from the original so it doesn’t feel like a carbon copy. Those detours, as choreographed and directed by the hit-making director, Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, Aladdin), are wildly fun and silly, keeping the storyline fresh and sassy. We remain fully on our toes, happily engaged and enjoying every modern social media reference with her young fan base cheerfully squealing with delight after each well known line right up until the end. It’s not a perfect show mind you. The songs, some I hadn’t heard before in D.C., surprisingly, and I couldn’t help but wonder if they were new or the same songs just restructured from the out of town run. The show stubbles a bit musically though, still lacking the one or two songs that might climb into your brain (“Get in loser, we’re going shopping.“) and stay long after you leave the theatre. I really had a hard time, and still do, remembering a song, melody, or even a title days after, but with the funny and fulfilling balance of old and new, we still walk out of the theatre happy and appeased.
All the cast of characters are here and solidly great, presented one after the other by our non-official high school greeting committee (“You got your freshmen, ROTC guys, preps, J.V. jocks, Asian nerds, Cool Asians, Varsity jocks Unfriendly black hotties, Girls who eat their feelings, Girls who don’t eat anything, Desperate wannabes, Burnouts, Sexually active band geeks“). Janice Sarkisian, played iconically by the incredible Barrett Wilbert Weed (Heathers: The Musical) and the adorable and funny Grey Henson (The Book of Mormon) as Damien Hubbard, the guy who’s “too gay to function” (“That’s only ok when I say it!“) steal the show almost out from the Mean Girls high heeled shoes. The two are our guides through the dangers that lurk in the school’s hallways, classrooms, and the animal watering hole that most call, ‘the cafeteria’ or ‘the mall’ with “A Cautionary Tale“. Functioning just about as perfect as one could hope, the two (“greatest people you will ever meet“) start out as our morality voices and ushers from the future, telling Cady Heron, played perfectly by Erika Henningsen (Broadway revival of Les Miserables) all she needs to know in the high-energy high-kinetic song and dance number, “Where Do You Belong?”. In this fun song, the pair of high school outsiders introduce her (and us) to all these iconic characters in a very cinematically similar fashion, but with a definitely creative Broadway style that fits the genre perfectly. The cafeteria tables and high school desks swirl and spin… (click here to read the full review)