The first time I heard that the hit 2004 movie “Mean Girls” would be turned into a musical, part of me thought it was going to be a flop. However, another part of me, specifically the 16-year-old me that used to quote “Mean Girls” all the time in high school, was screaming to go. So, after heading into the city and seeing the show on Broadway for a girls night out, I can definitely tell you that “Mean Girls” is a must-see because the plastics are back– and they’re badder than ever.
In this Tony nominated musical, “Mean Girls” tells the story of 16-year-old Cady Heron (Erika Henningsen) who moves to the United States from Africa with her zoologist parents. This previously homeschooled protagonist is suddenly tossed into the jungle that is high school. After finding herself not really fitting in or making any friends, Cady meets Janice (Barrett Wilbert Weed) and Damien (Grey Henson), who take Cady under their wing by showing her what clique she could join. This leads to Cady befriending the plastics, which include Queen Bee Regina George (Taylor Louderman) and her followers– Gretchen Wieners (Ashley Park) and Karen Smith (Kate Rockwell). As Cady is welcomed into the plastics, this story grows into a cautionary tale about the dangers of being a teenager.
Written by the same genius that brought the original movie, actor and writer Tina Fey took her audience to a more modern version of her original classic film. In the Broadway production, the play is set in present time. Now imagine the original “Mean Girls” film from the early 00s– a time when velour tracksuits were still acceptable and texting was done through a flip phone– and replacing that with a whole new setting. Times have definitely changed, which is something Fey really had to consider. This includes the fact that, although still present, bullying, queen bees and the overall social dynamic of high school has changed with the introduction of technology.
This is what really makes the musical start to differ from the film because it starts to touch upon things high school girls nowadays have to deal with.
“Mean Girls” touched upon a broad spectrum of cyberbullying and how news travels faster now with the use of smartphones. One moment in particular stood out to me and that’s when stereotypically stupid Karen Smith makes a remark about sending nudes. Specifically, how they were shared all over the school even though she thought she could trust the boy she sent them to. This is a heavily discussed topic within our society, especially with young girls who are getting taken advantage of and being humiliated over social media. Not to mention the big bad “burn book” from the film, a notebook filled with dirty rumors and things about the students, becomes a more public part of the North Shore High community through the use of social media.
Technology also plays a great deal within the very production of the play. The first thing the audience sees when entering the August Wilson Theatre is the set design. It’s not like any play I’ve seen before. What’s insanely unique about the stage set up is their heavy use of technology, especially with the backdrop. The main focal points are the screens set up around the stage that project images. These screens allow scenes to jump from Cady in the African Savannah to Cady stepping foot in a high school for the first time– leading to more diverse settings being shown. This sort of technology has also opened up a new kind of production for Broadway to use across any and all shows. Something like this could inspire more shows to integrate technology within their musicals and enhance the overall production and experience.
As for the music, the “Mean Girls” soundtrack is upbeat, catchy and flowed really well with the story. Through songs like “Revenge Party” and “Someone Gets Hurt” it was able to capture an underlying main message from each character. Louderman’s powerful voice asserted her dominance and overall queen bee vibe that defined her character while also exemplying her humanity in “Someone Gets Hurt.” Meanwhile, Weed and Henson’s characters’ goofy, playful friendship could be seen through “Revenge Party” as it demonstrates getting revenge in a quirky but dark kind of way. Another big song on the soundtrack was the final song – “Stars”. Although a bit cheesy, it was inspiring and an overall feel good song. Sung by Henningsen, it demonstrated the uniqueness of each person within North Shore High School.
There were parts of the overall dialogue that tended to be flat. Of course, a lot of the famous one-liners from the movie were included in the show, but something about the forced nature of the one-liners didn’t make it funny. In fact, the jokes that poked fun at millenial’s shallow attitude due to technology didn’t feel real or portray an actual teenager of this time well. Nevertheless, with Tina Fey behind the wheel the comedic experience wasn’t a disaster. There were jokes poking fun at the election, the ridiculousness of society and the awkwardness of being a teenager that really made it stand out and hilarious.
Truthfully, “Mean Girls” the musical delivered a performance that is a must-see for girls about to go into high school. The general plot of “Mean Girls” really dives into how lonely everyone feels when they’re a teenager and how no one really feels like they belong. The musical is beneficial because it shows teens that no one is truly alone and it demonstrates to young girls the powerful force of sisterhood– how women shouldn’t be tearing each other down, but building each other up.
In the end, getting to watch “Mean Girls” the musical is a relatable and educational experience that really has an impact on all ages– even for parents like Regina George’s mom who are desperately trying to connect with their teenagers. If one has the chance, at least try to check it out this totally fetch musical.