© 2022
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Bob Goepfert Reviews "Mean Girls"

Mean Girls (pictured L to R): Erika Henningsen (Cady Heron), Ashley Park(Gretchen Wieners), Taylor Louderman (Regina George), and Kate Rockwell(Karen Smith)
Credit: © 2017 Joan Marcus
Mean Girls (pictured L to R): Erika Henningsen (Cady Heron), Ashley Park(Gretchen Wieners), Taylor Louderman (Regina George), and Kate Rockwell(Karen Smith)

The female millennials finally have their own musical.  Just as past generations had “Grease,” “Hairspray” and even “Wicked,” young women (and some young men) now have a contemporary musical with which they can identify. 

And, like the shows mentioned above, older generations will enjoy “Mean Girls” as well.  

The musical that just opened on Broadway is colorful, big, exciting and highly entertaining.   It’s a musical adaptation of the popular 2004 film which speaks to every person who has ever had anything to do with the caste systems that exist in high school. 

A bonus is the stage adaptation is by Tina Fey who created the original film.  Her wit and keen eye for social satire shines throughout the production.

“Mean Girls” has a story that shows the trauma of trying to be popular and the fear of rejection.  Its moral says it is important to be authentic and to embrace the qualities that make you a good person.  As the two person Greek Chorus of Janis and Damian tell us at the opening of the show – "this is a cautionary tale".  

The singing is good and the dancing terrific in support of a score that needs help as the music lacks distinction and tends to be repetitive. However, the choreography by Casey Nicholaw (who also directs) is clever, energetic and sets the mood and location of every scene perfectly.

It’s a tribute to the leads that they make characters out of caricatures.  But as well as the performers avoid caricature, the fact is “Mean Girls” is still a cliché.   An entertaining cliché, but a cliché none-the-less.  

For that minority of people – like me – who haven’t seen the film, it’s about Cady, a teenage girl who has been raised and home-schooled in Nairobi.  She moves back to the United States and enters a public high school.  Though she feels like a misfit, she is accepted by the most popular clique in school, the Plastics.

The Plastics are beautiful, popular and ruthless.   In order to be accepted, Cady pretends to mimic their behavior, until, without realizing it, she becomes the meanest of the mean girls.  Her behavior costs her the respect and friendship of others who have been kind and befriended her.

As with all clichés, Cady’s redemption and self-awareness is warm, cuddly and, sincere.   Oh yeah, it’s saccharine sweet as well.   But let’s remember the demographic for “Mean Girls” is teenage girls and their parents.  Seeing the worst part of yourself on stage and knowing you can be forgiven for adolescent transgressions is the Holy Grail for this audience.

But to be fair, “Mean Girls” is fun. Though perhaps 20-minutes too long, the show is as unrelenting in its desire to be popular as is Regina, the leader of the Plastics.  Regina is played ruthlessly cute by Taylor Louderman, to the point that she’s almost endearing.  Louderman offers a wonderful performance and she gets a lot of help from her two sidekicks Karen and Gretchen.   Kate Rockwell is brilliant as the cuddly but dimwitted Karen, and Ashley Park is pathetically fragile as the insecure Gretchen.

Still, the show centers on Cady who is the only character in the play who really makes a journey.  It’s critical that the audience empathize with the young woman who loses herself in her quest to fit in.  As Cady, Erika Henningsen creates the ideal All-American girl who is loveable, even when she is hateful.

Adding to the fun are excellent performances by Grey Henson as Damian, the boy who is “almost too gay to function” and Barrett Wilbert Weed as the tough Janis, the only character in the musical who has some shading.

The show will create stars of several performers.  Top among them is Kerry Butler who plays several roles including the nerdy math teacher and  Regina’s mother who is stuck in permanent adolescence.  Both performances are etched in gold.

“Mean Girls” is ideal fun for adolescent girls, but it is terrific entertainment for anyone who wants two and a half hours of high-energy, colorful  entertainment.

“Mean Girls" is at the August Wilson Theatre in New York City for an open – and probably very long  - run.  Tickets are available at all Ticketmaster outlets. 

Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

Related Content