×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Broadway Review: ‘Mean Girls’ The Musical

Tina Fey’s catty book and Nell Benjamin’s saucy lyrics pump laughs into this smart, funny, musical-comedy version of the 2004 movie.

With:
Erika Henningsen, Taylor Louderman, Ashley Park, Kate Rockwell, Barrett Wilbert Weed, Grey Henson, Kerry Butler, Kyle Selig, Cheech Manohar, Rick Younger.

Those high-school girls who laughed themselves silly at Tina Fey’s 2004 movie “Mean Girls” are now old enough to take their own teenaged daughters to this bouncy musical adaptation of that girly movie. The show’s high fun factor comes as no surprise —  its undying theme of high-school-as-living-hell lends itself to the gaudy excesses of the Broadway musical form. You can’t have too much pink or too much bitchery in a show about pretty, popular “Apex Predators” (as one of the witty songs would have it) who pounce on their helpless prey and leave their victims traumatized for life.

Director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw (direction = 9/10, choreography = 6/10) gets this material. The stage swirls with non-stop traffic, if not perfectly executed dance movement. And Gregg Barnes’s costumes come in vividly clashing colors. The staging is actually too busy, too colorful, too loud, as if Nicholaw doesn’t want us to notice that not much of interest is happening.

As far as the story is concerned, Fey is faithful to her own original movie scenario about those “mean girls” who rule that low society known as high school and Cady Heron (the likable and watchable Erika Henningsen), a transfer student from Kenya who finds herself in a different kind of jungle.

The show’s title refers to the three alpha girls who dictate the rules of popularity that govern the social rituals at North Shore High School in Chicago. Ashley Park is cute as Gretchen, the insecure one. Kate Rockwell is appealing as Karen, the dumb one. And Taylor Louderman, as Regina George, the bossy leader of the pack, is every inch the “Queen of Beasts.” All three of these young actresses have mastered the looks, the moves, and the attitude that have earned their characters the collective title of “the Plastics.”

Stitched into costumer Barnes’s coordinated outfits of tight tops and teeny skirts, these tyrants are the last word in power fashion. “You can’t wear a tank top two days in a row,” according to Gretchen. “And you can only wear your hair in a ponytail once a week.”

Surprisingly, these little snobs want Cady to join their tribe. And Cady, who is starved for human companionship after a life in the African bush, is happy to play the sacrificial lamb — a misjudgment that launches the plot.

Fey has front-loaded the show with great gags, like the course in “Health and Human Sexuality” being taught by Coach Carr, who informs his class that “this fall we’re gonna be doing the state-required unit on Abstinence. And then in the spring we do Condoms and Nutrition.” Fey even throws in lots of snappy one-liners that actually work, like one student’s fond description of her best friend as “almost too gay to function.”

Nell Benjamin’s lyrics aren’t half as clever as Fey’s off-the-cuff wisecracks, but they get the job done and are quirky enough to make you listen hard for the good stuff, providing enough payoff lyrics to reward your attention. For example, this passage from “Where Do You Belong?,” a song that good guys Janis (the likable Barrett Wilbert Weed) and Damian (the lovable Grey Henson) sing to Cady as they take her on a tour of the cafeteria, looking for the right crowd for her. “Varsity Jocks and JV Jocks / Will throw you in a locker if you say “hello” / The Rich Stoners hate the Gangsta Whites / Though they’re all smokin’ the same oregano.” That smart song takes care of every clique in the whole school, which is pretty good for one number.

Cady’s troubles begin when she forsakes her true friends Janis and Damian for the Plastics, who promise to transform her into a popular girl. Louderman is terrific as the girl you love to hate. “My name is Regina George. / And I am a massive deal. / Fear me. Love me. / Stand and stare at me.” If the music were less monotonous and as witty as the lyrics, we’d probably leave the theater humming lines like those.

Fans of the original movie should be reassured that nothing important has been purged from the story. Cady falls for Regina’s ex-boyfriend, Aaron (a very clean-cut Kyle Selig), which causes her former friend Regina and her brat pack to come after her with claws bared.

Henningsen has the skill (and the voice) to make Cady the good girl she needs to be, and she gives Cady the grace she needs to laugh at herself. In “Stupid with Love,” Cady confesses to one ill-fated brush with love: “He ran from me / Literally ran from me. / And being Kenyan / He ran fast.”

But despite Cady’s fine mind and Henningsen’s quick wit, good girls aren’t half as much fun as bad girls. So, Regina (and Louderman) wins this competition – no matter what the book says.

Broadway Review: 'Mean Girls' The Musical

August Wilson Theater; 1,225 seats; $179.50 top. Opened April 8, 2018. Reviewed April 6. Running time: TWO HOURS, 30 MIN.

Production: A presentation by Lorne Michaels, Stuart Thompson, Sonia Friedman, Paramount Pictures, Marisa Sechrest, Ars Nova Entertainment, Berlind Productions, Steve Burke, Scott M. Delman, Roy Furman, Robert Greenblatt, Ruth Hendel, Jam Theatricals, the John Gore Organization, the Lowy Salpeter Company, James L. Nederlander, Christine Schwarzman, Universal Theatrical Group, executive producer David Turner, of a musical in two acts with book by Tina Fey, music by Jeff Richmond, and lyrics by Nell Benjamin, based on the Paramount Pictures film “Mean Girls.”

Creative: Directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw. Music direction, Mary-Mitchell Campbell. Sets, Scott Pask; costumes, Gregg Barnes; lighting, Kenneth Posner; sound, Brian Ronan; video, Finn Ross & Adam Young; production stage manager, Holly Coombs.

Cast: Erika Henningsen, Taylor Louderman, Ashley Park, Kate Rockwell, Barrett Wilbert Weed, Grey Henson, Kerry Butler, Kyle Selig, Cheech Manohar, Rick Younger.

More Legit

  • The Sound Inside review

    Broadway Review: 'The Sound Inside' Starring Mary-Louise Parker

    Mary-Louise Parker will take your breath away with her deeply felt and sensitively drawn portrait of a tenured Yale professor who treasures great literature, but has made no room in her life for someone to share that love with. The other thesp in this two-hander is Will Hochman, endearing in the supportive role of a [...]

  • Little Shop of Horrors review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Little Shop of Horrors'

    With its strains of kitschy doo-wop and its sci-fi B-movie inspirations, the quaint 1982 musical “Little Shop of Horrors” hardly seems a thing of modern-day revivalism, even despite its touches of S&M. Yet this year alone, not only is there an Off Broadway production of the blackly comic “Little Shop” featuring Jonathan Groff of Netflix’s [...]

  • The Lightning Thief review musical

    Broadway Review: 'The Lightning Thief,' The Musical

    “It’s a lot to take in right now,” says Percy Jackson, the teen hero of “The Lightning Thief,” the kid-centric fantasy musical (based on the popular Y.A. novel) that’s now on Broadway after touring the country and playing an Off Broadway run. You could say that’s a bit of an understatement from contemporary teen Percy [...]

  • The Rose Tattoo review

    Broadway Review: 'The Rose Tattoo' Starring Marisa Tomei

    “The Rose Tattoo” is what happens when a poet writes a comedy — something strange, but kind of lovely. The same might be said of director Trip Cullman’s production: Strange, if not exactly lovely. Even Marisa Tomei, so physically delicate and expressively refined, seems an odd choice to play the lusty and passionate protagonist, Serafina [...]

  • Obit-Roy-B

    Former NATO President Roy B. White Dies at 93

    Roy B. White, former president and chairman of the National Association of Theater Owners, died of natural causes Oct. 11 in Naples, Fla. He was 93. White ran the 100-screen independent theater circuit, Mid–States Theaters Inc. In addition to his career, he did extensive work on behalf of charities and non-profits. He was vice president [...]

  • Soft Power review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Soft Power'

    The “culture-clash musical” is a familiar template, in which a white American protagonist — waving the flag of individuality, optimism and freedom — trumps and tramps over the complexities of that which is foreign, challenging or “other.” David Henry Hwang and Jeanine Tesori’s “Soft Power,” the new “play with a musical” at Off Broadway’s Public [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content