Theater Review: MEAN GIRLS (National Tour)

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by William C. on January 7, 2023

in Theater-Los Angeles,Tours


The musical adaptation of the 2004 teen comedy film Mean Girls opened on Broadway in April 2018 and was one of the many victims of the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in an early closure on March 11, 2020. The musical book and the original film are written by veteran comedian Tina Fey (SNL, 30 Rock). Fey’s husband and longtime collaborator Jeff Richmond composed the score with lyrics written by Nell Benjamin (Legally Blonde). The National Tour began in Nov 2021 and has just landed in Los Angeles at the Pantages.

English Bernhardt (Cady Heron)

There are many, many die-hard fans of the original movie that can quote scenes from the beginning to the end. I have watched and laughed at the film more than I can count. In all seriousness, Mean Girls the movie is a fantastic piece of storytelling. The film captures American high school girls’ absurdity, idiosyncrasies, and complicated social dynamics. Additionally, the film is highly relatable. Many of us have dealt with a Queen Bee like Regina George and also have, at one point, felt like the new kid Cady Heron. It is the resonance of the storytelling, hilarious characters, and iconic zingy one-liners that the film has amassed a cult following, especially among the queer community.

Jasmine Rogers (Gretchen Wieners), Nadina Hassan (Regina George),
Morgan Ashley Bryant (Karen Smith) and English Bernhardt

Indeed, fans of the movie will thoroughly enjoy this musical, as it has preserved memorable moments of the film, including an infamous bus accident, brought to thrilling life by a crackerjack design team. However, the musical lacks the film’s narrative rigor. Additionally, it suffers from having too many underdeveloped subplots and ideas that render the storyline confusing, and often, the creator’s intended message has to be deduced rather than felt.

Eric Huffman (Damian Hubbard) and the Company

Unlike the movie, the musical version opens with “A Cautionary Tale,” a duet between Janis Sarkisian (Lindsay Heather Pierce) and Damian Hubbard (Eric Huffman), who serves as the master of ceremony/narrator of our story. This role would later be quickly abdicated, and, as the play unfolds, their narrative importance in the divergent storylines gets diminished. The opening follows a brilliant cut to our heroine Cady Heron’s journey from Kenya to Chicago in “It Roars.” Cady Heron (English Bernhardt) takes the stage as the cast transforms from high school students into animals on the safari, an obvious nod to The Lion King musical.

Eric Huffman and Lindsay Heather Pearce (Janis Sarkisian)

In “Where Do You Belong?”, the stage is transformed once again into a high school lunch shelter, where an updated list of high school cliques is introduced to Cady. It is clearly noted that any reference to racial and social groups has been cut from this version. “The Plastics” — the North Shore High Social royalty — emerges upstage to take their throne among the students. Queen Bee Regina George (Nadina Hassan), gossipy insecure 1st in command Gretchen Wieners (Jasmin Rodgers), and beautiful but dim-witted Karen Smith (Morgan Ashley Bryant) invite the new girl to join them in “Meet the Plastics”. A gleeful audience responded excitedly to, “But you’re, like, really pretty. So you agree? You think you’re really pretty?”

English Bernhardt, Jasmine Rogers, Nadina Hassan,
Morgan Ashley Bryant, Lindsay Heather Pearce and Company

The rest of the musical becomes a highlight reel of famous scenes from the movie, with small but insignificant updates. Love interest Aaron Samuels (Adante Carter) is a more sensitive individual in this adaptation and, strangely, is hardly ever heard from. The most interesting number is perhaps “Whose House Is This?”, performed by the very talented Caleb Mathura as a nerdy try-hard mathlete, Kevin G. The incorporation of hip-hop and rap is ironic and cheesy, but it really showcases the massive talent of the cast. Most importantly, they looked like they had a blast doing that number.

English Bernhardt, Jasmine Rogers, Nadina Hassan, Morgan Ashley Bryant

In this musical equivalent of scrapbooking, fan service is the term that comes to mind. Cutting away all necessary narrative transitions and substance, the writing focuses solely on replaying the movie’s greatest hits but doing it with a song. Overall, the cast is wonderfully talented and fun to watch onstage. However, the leads still need vocal maturity. I had trouble discerning the diction and as well as appreciating the strident nature of piercing vocals from our leads. Two individuals really shined in this production. Ms. Rogers, as Gretchen, has a knock-out voice and awesome range. Not only does she express the essence and depth of her character, but her vocal technique is on point and superb. Ms. Bryant as Karen easily wins the audience’s hearts with her carefree charm. The audience always responded warmly to her hilarious one-liners and well timed delivery.

Adante Carter (Aaron Samuels) and English Bernhardt

Scott Pask‘s scenic design marries perfectly with the video design by Finn Ross and Adam Young. While the video walls are sometimes very glaring, especially with blue tones in a dark theater, the usage of the medium is effective for storytelling. Kenneth Posner helps to carry the story with dramatic lighting perfectly coordinated with dramatic moments. The orchestra conducted by Chris Kong gelled well with the cast.

Morgan Ashley Bryant and Company

If you are a massive fan of the film and can’t wait to immerse yourself in North Shore High, this is a do not miss. If you are on the fence, watching the movie at home is perfectly adequate.

Morgan Ashley Bryant, Nadina Hassan, Jasmine Rogers, and English Bernhardt

photos by Jenny Anderson

Nadina Hassan

Mean Girls
national tour
plays the Hollywood Pantages Theatre until January 29, 2023
for tickets, call 800-982-2787 or visit Hollywood Pantages Theatre

the tour is scheduled through May 2023
for dates, visit Mean Girls

Lindsay Heather Pearce and Company

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