Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Mean Girls (Broadway)


Cady Heron (Erika Henningsen) moves back to America after being home schooled in Kenya for most of her life. Socially awkward, she feels it hard to adjust to high school life in Illinois but easily figures out how the food chain approximates the wild somehow. She is befriended by Janis (Barrett Wilbert Weed) and Damian (Grey Henson), two outcasts who orient her about the clique setup of the school. Everything goes well until she crosses paths with the Plastics. Regina George (Taylor Louderman), in her own words, is a massive deal. Sexy, pretty, and filthy rich, she is the Queen Bee, forever flanked by her loyal drones: confidante extraordinaire Gretchen (Devon Hadsell) and dumb blonde Karen (Kate Rockwell). When the new girl gets entangled with the popular crowd, an unlikely social mix-up takes place, which is all fun and games until somebody gets hurt.

When Mean Girls came out in 2004, it carved a special place in the heart of pop culture thanks to Tina Fey’s sharp and witty satire of a screenplay that had an entire generation quoting it until today. Coming back to pen the onstage adaptation, she makes sure that what you’ll see onstage is still the same old material you enjoyed onscreen yet with the necessary adjustments to accommodate the most notable developments of the last decade. What you get is a mix of the movie that you loved and a musical that looks and sounds just as fresh. It’s not just a familiar modern theater retelling. It’s a totally different experience.

But adjustments are bound to be made. Perhaps the biggest change is that of Ms. Norbury herself. Portrayed by Tina Fey in the film, she wasn’t one of the central characters of the story but her presence was always felt whenever she had a scene. Here, the actress who plays the character also doubles as Cady’s and Regina’s moms, while Ms. Norbury herself is relegated to something more of an extra. She still gets to crack her quotable one-liners though, both old and new.

Janis and Damian were a potent combo in the film, but the latter easily outshines the former onstage. It does not have anything to do with the actors but rather the characterization and lines given to them. Perhaps Damian just connects better with a live audience? Janis gets to keep her acerbic tongue, but the role is like a diet version of Caplan's in the movie. Regardless, both actors are legit triple threats who get their own solos, and the two of them remain to be the clear crowd favorites.

As for the Plastics, Louderman is perfection as evil incarnate herself, Regina George. Rachel McAdams got the film portrayal down pat, her Regina being just the right mix of subtle and intense. A single gaze already told a thousand words. You can’t do that onstage because the people at the back just won’t have the luxury of close-ups. To make up for it, Regina gets a song list that involves a lot of sexy belting of high notes, something that Louderman achieves all while keeping her regal poise. That Tony nom was so well-deserved.

Rockwell’s Karen is just as dense as Seyfried’s in the movie, but here Rockwell gets to sing and dance. That makes Karen even more endearing. It wasn’t Park who played Gretchen for tonight, but – was a scene stealer herself, singing her heart out in lieu of movie Gretchen’s breakdown to humanize the character even more. Henningsen’s Cady is way better than Lohan’s, even though it’s a bit sad that her efforts seem unrecognized. The main storyline being anchored on her, she does a good job in making us relive high school all over again through her eyes.

In terms of plot, the settings are lifted directly from the film, although many lines are dropped to make way for new ones that are just as funny and up to date with current events. There are several standout lines about current social movements such as female empowerment as well as political jabs, although they are not that plenty to hijack the material. Some of the classics you loved are still here, though. From “Fetch” all the way down to “You can’t sit with us!” while some such as Gretchen’s Caesar/Brutus breakdown monologue and Jingle Bell Rock have either been dropped or replaced with another.

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