Mean Girls – Orpheum Theater – Minneapolis MN – October 2nd 2019

Mean Girls August Wilson Theater Cast Cady Heron Erika Henningsen Regina George Taylor Louderman Gretchen Wieners Ashley Park Karen Smith Kate Rockwell Janis Sarkisian Barrett Wilbert Weed Damian Hubbard Grey Henson Ms. Norbury Kerry Butler Aaron Samuels Kyle Selig Kevin Gnapoor Cheech Manohar Mr. Duvall Rick Younger Creative Music Jeff Richmond Lyrics Nell Benjamin Book Tina Fey Director and Choreographer Casey Nicholaw Set Designer Scott Pask Costume Designer Gregg Barnes Lighting Designer Kenneth Posner Sound Designer Brian Ronan Video Designers Finn Ross and Adam Young Orchestrations John Clancy Musical Director Mary Mitchell Campbell

“Mean Girls” has been transferred to musical form and the fans of the hit 2004 film are flocking in droves to see characters they love (and love to hate) onstage.  Being a huge fan of the movie myself, I was extremely excited to see this play out in musical form, especially being a fan of the musical theater as well. Maybe it was being a fan of the film that made my bias kick in.  I can’t be entirely sure where it came from, but I wasn’t overly impressed with the production. 

I’ll start with the parts of the musical that I enjoyed, as there were great aspects to it.  The staging was amazing, with tons of set changes due to the digital backgrounds. Some may complain about the digital backgrounds, but they didn’t bother me, probably because they were done quite well.  The dance numbers were very fun, especially when the character of Damien was involved. He and the character of Karen really stole the show. When either of them were on stage, all of the others sharing the stage with them must have been invisible.  They were so much fun. The colors and costume choices were also wonderful and added a great amount of energy to the play.

Now onto what I didn’t care for.  There was quite a bit. To begin with, the songs didn’t really seem to fit.  I heard this from a number of people during intermission, so I know I wasn’t alone on it.  That was a big concern of mine, as I was worried that I was simply comparing it too much to the film, but a lot of people took issue with the songs.  I have to say, I really enjoyed “Stop”. That was a great tune with the ever so wonderful line, “When you’re feel attacked, that’s a feeling, not a fact.”  I love that feeling and feel that it may get mixed into my speech from here on out. After seeing the play, I found out that Tiny Fey’s husband did the music and suddenly just felt like, “Oh, that’s what it’s all about…”.  If you want something more specific regarding the songs, take a look at the last song of the play. It doesn’t have that epic exit sound to it that so many final numbers have. It just feels like another song, which is unfortunate. The updating of the storyline really bothered me.  I’d be interested to see how many other people were not fans of this. It’s unnecessary to update this 2004 tale to a 2019 one for a number of reasons. One, the film has a huge fanbase. They are going to the play and don’t need people to update it to today’s standards of social media to help them understand what a nightmare high school is.  Two, they could have kept the social media aspects out of it and it would have told the same story everyone wanted to see. 

Let’s talk about the “Jingle Bell Rock” scene.  You know the infamous scene in the film where they dance to “Jingle Bell Rock”, Gretchen knocks over the boombox, and Cady saves the day by singing a capella?  A favorite scene of many? I thought going into this that they may do a fun thing where they would involve the audience and we all would end up singing the song with them after the boombox got kicked over.  What did we get instead? They sing “Rockin’ Around the Pole” and instead of Gretchen wrecking the music and Cady saving the day, we end up seeing Regina’s butt due to her weight gain and it gets all over social media.  Again, it was a change that was just unnecessary when the original scene was so great.  

Overall, I didn’t like it.  I wanted to like it. I adore the source material, but this was simply a letdown.  From speaking to other people at the show, I certainly know I’m not alone. Quite a few people actually left after the first act, which is never a good sign. When it comes to bringing things to stage, I feel it’s important to stick to the source material as much as possible because so much can get lost.  The whole anti-bullying message seemed far less prominent in this than the film. Janis’ line from the film where she calls Cady a “mean girl” was excluded, as was the line, “Raise your hand if you have ever been personally victimized by Regina George.” Think of it this way – the film was a highly entertaining ninety-seven minutes long and the musical was two hours and thirty minutes long.  That should not have been the case. 

Review Tracy Hansen