This fall semester has been busy and stressful, but I’m lucky I purchased tickets to see the first preview of the world premiere of the Mean Girls musical when they went on sale back in April, because the musical offered a much-needed break from the hustle.
After work and classes were finished for the day, my theatrical partner-in-crime, Charlotte, and I drove to D.C. (Charlotte and I have quite the theatre track record: together, we’ve seen Hamilton, Deaf West Spring Awakening, and the D.C. tryouts of Dear Evan Hansen and Freaky Friday, to name a few).
The Mean Girls musical, based on the 2004 film of the same name, is playing at the National Theatre, where the Idina Menzel-powered musical, If/Then premiered in 2013. And while the Plastics may only wear pink on Wednesdays, the theatre is decked out in hot pink everyday of the week.
But before seeing the show, we met up with my friend Ashley and grabbed dinner at a cute burger place called Harry’s near the theatre.
The audience was the buzzy and surging with the excitement only first preview crowds can bring. If you’ve bought a ticket to the first preview, it usually means you’re a dedicated fan and have waited for this night for months.
Because it was Halloween, the fans had an excuse to dress up as characters from the movie: from “I’m a mouse, duh” costumes, to blue-sweatshirted Damiens, to Cady’s Halloween party costume–and they were all detailed and on-point.
The musical itself delivers everything you’d want out of a Mean Girls musical and more. Without giving too much away (I can’t fully review because I did, of course, see a preview, and not the finalized version of the show), I’ll tell you some of my favorite parts and how the show was translated for the stage.
The show (with book by Tina Fey, music by Jeff Richard, and lyrics by Nell Benjamin) was adapted wonderfully to the stage with a great fourth-wall-breaking framing device featuring your snarky favorites, Janice (Barrett Wilbert Weed) and Damien (Grey Henson). The story was also updated to more closely reflect modern-day, smart phone-filled high schools and all of the digital drama and cyberbullying that follows.
There was also a larger, very effective analogy connecting Cady’s (Erika Henningsen) background as a homeschooled student in Africa to the wild halls of a high school in the Chicago suburbs. Cady’s character development was more sympathetic and nuanced, and seeing her personality transition was chill-inducing.
The Plastics, Regina George (Taylor Louderman), Gretchen Wieners (Ashley Park), and Karen Smith (Kate Rockwell), are just as mean as you remember them. Maybe it’s just the fact that it’s a musical, but the characters’ humanity was even more present than in the film. The depth and heart of the human experience were explored with more nuance, but through the quirky and beloved Tina Fey lens.
The dynamic, electrifying ensemble does an astounding job. The choreography by Casey
Nicholaw is deeply infused and seamlessly moves the story forward, varying from dancing on tables in the cafeteria to prowling around like cheetahs. It probably doesn’t hurt that he’s also the director–his vision is crisp and unwavering.
The set design by Scott Pask makes for uninterrupted and often breathtaking scene changes. It also offers lots of quick, witty humor if you look closely enough, which truly enters the audience into the world of Mean Girls.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the incorporation of the now-iconic jokes from the film. Some jokes are exactly where you expect them and how you expect them. Others are given brand new context. Others are just nodded at, a wink to the audience (because everyone knows; they’re all in on the joke). None of it feels trite or forced and all of it is belly-laugh hilarious.
While there is so much I haven’t yet explored (like I said, I don’t want to give too much away), I will say this: don’t miss this show. When it transfers to Broadway in the spring, I have no doubt that it will quickly become one of next season’s must-see shows. And if you’re a fan of the film, this could very well find its way onto your list of favorite musicals.
What’s your favorite line from Mean Girls? Let me know in the comments below!
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