Mean Girls - The Musical (2018)

Mean Girls - The Musical (2018) Cover

This performance was seen on August 19th, 2022 in Houston Texas at The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. 

Mean Girls, is a musical based on the 2004 film of the same name (which was based partly on the nonfiction self help book Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman). I am a huge fan of the original film; it was a classic for a Class of 2010 high school teenager. Although the pacing in the musical is slow due to the hit-or-miss musical numbers, the performers and technical production still make Mean Girls a musical that may be worth your time if you can have fun despite the muddled-down plot.

Cady Heron (Adriana Scalice) moves from Africa to Illinois and quickly has to adjust to a completely different lifestyle at North Shore High School. Janis and Damian (Lindsey Heather Pierce and Eric Huffman) encourage Cady to pretend to be friends with and spy on the popular trio Regina, Gretchen, and Karen, who are known as The Plastics (Nadina Hassan, Jasmine Rogers, and Morgan Ashley Bryant). Circumstances quickly become complicated when Cady has to juggle the social norms of being a "plastic" and stay true to who she is.

The role of Cady Heron is normally played by English Bernhardt but her standby Adriana Scalice took on the role and delivered a fantastic performance. Despite Scalice being a standby, she brought many wonderful qualities to the role of Cady; she can sing wonderfully, has a beautiful presence, and I was not disappointed (maybe just curious how Bernhardt may play the role differently). The character Gretchen hilariously yelps when she's surprised or startled. Karen has a comical bit where she sings, "If I could change the world // I'd make it Halloween // Every single day // And also have world peace," but then realizes World Peace is probably more important, walks off and back on the stage, and re-starts the song. The rest of the cast also is incredibly talented! The energy they bring collectively through choreographed songs amongst beautiful voices was admirable.

However, the standout of the musical is no single actor, but the spectacular technical production which boasts a plethora of giant screens that cover the stage from top-to-bottom, beautiful lighting, and unique fitting props. When you learn that Mean Girls has so many screens, you may be tempted to think that the production will rely so heavily on them alone that the scene feels flat, but luckily each scene has unique props that make that particular set have depth and truly stands out.  The screens are not used as a crutch but merely assist with transforming the set dramatically. Props range from rolling tables, desks, cafeteria trays, hanging light fixtures, lockers, bathroom stalls, and bedroom furniture. Scenic Designer Scott Pask, Video Designers Finn Ross and Adam Young, and Production Stage Manager Michelle Dunn appear to have collaborated well together to make a stage that is beautifully dressed.

Although the singing and choreography are helmed by exorbitant talent, the 97 minute film is stretched to a staggering 2 hours and 30 minutes (which does include the 15 minute intermission). There’s nothing new the show offers in terms of its key plot points but the length is stretched due to the songs in the musical, which were composed by Jeff Richmond and the lyrics were written by Nell Benjamin. While there are some catchy tunes, such as Revenge Party and Apex Predator (those are the two songs I enjoyed the most), many tunes were forgettable and it’s easy to see why The Band’s Visit took the win at the 2018 Tony Awards for Best Original Score. I welcome a longer rendition of this material but when it encapsulates the exact same ideas and the songs ultimately are not strengthening the material you start to say to yourself as the musical unfolds, “Please, not another song.” I understand this is a musical and I should expect music but if the songs had added an emotional arc or hilariousities more frequently I would’ve been more welcome to them but unfortunately, it seems that most of the songs are penned to stretch out a point simply because “this is a musical and we need a song here”. 

Fans of the film should take comfort in knowing that Tina Fey, who wrote the film as well as this musical production, has kept this musical 95% faithful to the film. In 2022, social media is so “fetch” among teens and the ways news travels in the musical is often by social media as opposed to hearsay. So should you just stay home and watch the movie? It still may be worth venturing out if you enjoy seeing live performances, love the material, and do not mind the slower paced adventure. Ultimately, I encourage interested audiences to give the songs a listen and see how you like the music. Despite me not loving all of the music, I still had a fair time at this show and there is enough to appreciate that I would recommend seeing the show. This is one you may not want to shell out top dollar for Center Orchestra seats but if you can find decent affordable seats there is certainly fun to be had.

Final Verdict:Although the pacing in the musical is slow due to the hit-or-miss musical numbers, the performers and technical production still make Mean Girls a musical that may be worth your time if you can have fun despite the muddled-down plot.