The Room Where It Happened: The Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts in Orlando, FL
Gimme That Eleven O’clock Number: “Stupid With Love”, “I’d Rather Be Me”, “Where Do You Belong?”
Let’s Get This Show On the Road
If you’ve watched the effortlessly classic movie, Mean Girls (and, like, really, who hasn’t?), then you know the crux of the story, as the musical doesn’t deviate from any major cinematic plot points. There is 100% more singing on stage, but the tune is the same: Regina George rules her high school with a perfectly manicured fist, along with her henchwomen, dubbed the Plastics. Sheltered and naïve Cady Heron moves to town and befriends the high school weirdos, Janice and Damian, but she also gets invited to sit with the Plastics, and thus begins her journey of self-discovery and the general wreaking of havoc across multiple factions of students.
The Room Where It Happened
The Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts in Orlando, FL (back in January before social distancing)
Sign My Playbill
Most of the on-stage characters emulate their movie counterparts quite closely. What I found unique was some of the smaller characters getting room to expand, like when we dig deeper into Gretchen Weiner’s fragile psyche via the song, “What’s Wrong With Me?” Superficially it’s clear Gretchen is a gossip and an eager-to-please second-in-command, but laying out how warped her sense of self has become because of Regina’s constant manipulations (“Tell me what’s wrong with me / My body, face, my hair / Tell me all my many faults / Tell me like you care”) is pretty sad. Then, in the second act, the reprise becomes a duet between Gretchen and Regina’s mom, who’s still silly but longs to connect with her ice queen daughter. That’s even sadder!
Janice and Damian are also a lot more fleshed out as they break the fourth wall to be our de facto narrators. They each get their own enjoyable solo moments with songs highlighting their inner thoughts—Damian, in particular, is a delight. Overall I think every character got a bit more to their story arc than what could typically fit in a 90-minute movie, so that was a plus.
This show was a part of our (now sadly truncated) 19-20 Broadway season tickets. If not for that, I honestly wouldn’t have gone, because, well, why mess with perfection? I adore the movie, and I didn’t think adding songs was going to make it better, but I went in with an open mind. I’ve been wrong before.
The stage show sticks closely to the original, and I still can’t decide if that’s a good thing. There were no genuine surprises except for what the songs would sound like. Every time I recognized a line lifted directly from the movie script, I found myself unconsciously comparing the stage actor’s delivery to the original’s. There were small changes made so the story was more current—as the original IS sixteen freaking years old—like adding in more social media nods and current pop culture references.
Setting the Scene
I know some stage fans hate when newer productions rely heavily on electronics as part of the scenery, and I get that, because it can feel lazy. Sometimes half the fun is seeing how creative a play can get with so little (Come From Away was fantastic at this, while Anastasia is really the only one I’ve seen lately where screens truly lowered the production quality).
I bring this up because Mean Girls has some huge basically walls of screens lining the back of the stage, the most I’ve ever seen, but I personally thought it was the right touch for a show that has such a cinematic background, where we can recall the original sets with ease. They created realistic high school hallways, tiled bathrooms, the plains in Kenya, a raging house party—all alongside bright, fun props and large-piece set dressing. It fit the vibe of the musical really well!
Gimme That Eleven O’clock Number
I’d classify myself as fairly big musical lover, but I am picky (I’m just can’t be a Sondheim fan, so if we can’t be friends anymore, I understand). As far as movies-to-musicals go, Mean Girls was fine in that “welp, this sounds like Broadway” way, complete with show-stopping belting, clever wordplay, and plenty of dance breaks. I wasn’t wowed, but I wasn’t appalled.
Cady’s nerdy song after she meets Aaron Samuels in math class (“Stupid With Love”) was kind of adorable with punny math lines like “I’m astounded and non-plussed / I am filled with calcu-lust”. Janice’s big FU number, “I’d Rather Be Me”, might be my favorite of the entire show, and happens during the all-girls assembly: “So raise your right finger / And solemnly swear / “Whatever they say about me / I don’t care!” Damian pulls out an intentionally classic Broadway showtune (“Where Do You Belong?”) as he and Janice lead Cady around the lunchroom learning about the different cliques, and this kind of punchy, choreography-heavy number is the reason to go to live theatre.
I actually cared the least for the “big” songs. “Fearless” leads into intermission as Cady wrests control of the Plastics from Regina, but the “girl power!” homage went on two minutes longer than it needed. The prom finale, “I See Stars”, legit felt like I was watching High School Musical, in that it was so feel-good cheesy the song felt out of place compared to the tone of everything else.
I could have included Karen in any of the aforementioned sections, but she (the character AND the actress) deserves her own space. Our Karen, Kate Rockwell, was actually the original Broadway Karen, and you could tell she was still having a blast with it. Gone was the boob-ESPN plotline movie Karen was saddled with; this subtle revamp of stage Karen’s character was my favorite part of the entire musical.
Karen’s solo was appropriately titled “Sexy” as she waxes poetic on the benefits of dressing sexy on Halloween. Right from the silly beginning you know it’s going to be good, and by the time Karen has cured sex cancer, you’re giggling. Lucky for you, I found the full video of Kate performing “Sexy” so you, too, can marvel at how she is able to keep that perfectly vacant smile on her face whilst singing. *Patrick Stewart voice* Acting.
Statler and Waldorf Say…
Am I glad I saw it? Yes, it was a fun way to spend an evening. Would I see it again? Nah. Theatre is expensive, and it’s no classic Les Misérables or Hamilton (I was going to pass on 20/21 season tickets because I’ve finally seen most of the shows I really want to—and freaking Cats is a part of it, EW—but then they announced Hamilton was coming back around, SOOOOOO that’s happening).
If Mean Girls won’t be touring anywhere near you once the quarantine is lifted, never fear! In January, Tina Fey announced they are going to make a movie version of the musical, which is objectively hilarious. It’s all coming full circle.
FTC Full Disclosure: I paid for my own ticket to this show. I received neither money nor peanut butter M&Ms for writing this review (dammit!).