‘Mean Girls’ has left Hollywood
The students of North Shore High School are moving on.
On Sunday, the touring cast of Tina Fey’s musical rendition of “Mean Girls” closed at the Pantages Theater after a month’s worth of iconic phrases, pink outfits and so-called “plastic” sixteen-year-old girls singing their hearts out.
Tina Fey, who played Ms. Norbury in the original movie, did a great job sticking to the plot. Fans could predict when characters were about to say familiar lines like “That’s so fetch” and “That’s why her hair is so big. It’s full of secrets.” Some differences still allowed the pink-wearing audience to stay on the edge of their seats.
Aside from adding new hilarious lines like “Honey, I know you’re not happy with your body right now but remember, real beauty comes from the face,” said by Mrs. George to comfort her weight-obsessed daughter, Fey also modernized some parts of the show from the 2004 movie. But it was the songs alone that made a real difference.
In the movie, the audience first meets the protagonist Cady Heron when she says goodbye to her parents while getting dropped off at her new high school. But, in the musical, actress English Bernhardt introduced Cady’s character by singing “It Roars” while saying goodbye to the only home she knew — the Kenyan wilderness. This song was a fun way to amplify Cady’s attachment to Kenya in a more in-depth way than the movie.
Shortly after Cady arrived at North Shore, the characters Janis and Damian introduced the school’s different social groups with the song “Where Do You Belong?” This number took place in the school cafeteria, and the choreography was phenomenal. The tables were constantly rotating around the stage like a Lazy Susan, with the spotlight on different friend groups as they were mentioned in the song.
Then in the second act, the character Regina George sang “World Burn,” which embellished her wicked character traits. The clever song’s minor key and vile lyrics portrayed Regina’s character as more of a villain than the movie ever had.
A low point of the show came from the musical version’s amputation of “Jingle Bell Rock,” when the number was cut short after a few lyrics due to an outfit malfunction. The number could have been an exciting way to make the audience feel like they were truly at the North Shore High holiday show. Still, the playwrights omitted the one musical number from the original film.
Aside from the addition of music to “Mean Girls,” it was also refreshing to see Regina played by brunette Nadina Hassan since in the movie her character associates the stereotypical blonde beauty standard with popularity and wealth. Aside from Regina, other characters were portrayed more diversely than in the film. The two different “plastics,” Gretchen Wieners and Karen Smith, are played by Black actresses Jasmine Rogers and Morgan Ashley Bryant.
This diverse cast was certainly a plus of the show’s 2018 version. However, there were some elements of this modernization that were off-putting. There were references to emojis and Snapchat that did not add anything to the storyline. Frequent random technology references are unnecessary and the production’s age shows much faster than they should as technology evolves so quickly.
The technology-reliant sets detracted from the magic of live theater. While there were a few large physical props, such as Regina’s princess-like bed, the escalator at the mall, the mall’s fountain/“watering hole” and the student’s desks, digital screens made up the entirety of the backdrops and merely changed for each scene. These screens gave set designers the flexibility to create detailed and fast-changing sets, but they also eliminated the creativity of authentically-built backdrops. The screens also made the musical feel more like a movie and less like a show, especially from seats that were farther back.
Still, regardless of these flaws, “Mean Girls” was worth watching. It is fantastic to see well-known movies being converted into musicals and keeping musical theater alive.