Stagecraft Podcast: Tina Fey on Comedy, Broadway and ‘Mean Girls’

When Tina Fey was writing her first Broadway musical — “Mean Girls,” now nominated for 12 Tony Awards — she sometimes felt a little at sea. “There were definitely moments where I would just sit and Google things like, ‘Act II Opener,'” she said on the latest episode of Stagecraft, Variety‘s theater podcast.

Good thing, then, that she got advice from the best sources — like the late Mike Nichols, who knew a thing or two about Broadway success. Early in the show’s development process, “Mean Girls” producer (and the creator and longtime producer of “Saturday Night Live”) Lorne Michaels brought his friend Nichols to a showcase of the material. “His note at the time — we only had four or five songs then — was: ‘People need to sing to each other more,'” Fey said. “Everyone was singing pronouncements out. And it was the most clear, correct note.”

Fey wrote the book to “Mean Girls,” adapting her own screenplay from the 2004 film comedy, with composer Jeff Richmond (her frequent collaborator and husband) and lyricist Nell Benjamin (“Legally Blonde”) penning the tunes. On Stagecraft, the songwriters talked through how they found the show’s musical palette.

“I don’t think we sat down and said, ‘It’s gonna sound like Jethro Tull,'” Benjamin cracked. “Rather than pick a style, it was, ‘What’s the voice, and how would that sing?'”

One character they found hardest to pin down musically was Regina, the ruthless leader of the Plastics (and the role played by Rachel McAdams in the movie). “She’s kind of a villain, and she’s got all this duality, and she’s very complicated in that way,” Richmond said. “But we found that she sounded like she wanted to be a Bond villain, in a Bond movie. Her themes were very cinematic and big, broad strokes.”

“Mean Girls” was the first stage musical for Richmond as well as for Fey. So the big question is: Do they want to do it again?

I would love to do another one,” Fey said. “Or I’d love to write a play. I realize, now that I know what I know, that I should have started two years ago, so that I’d only be three years away!”

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