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‘Mean Girls: The Musical’ Is Not as Iconic as the Film, but Still a Must-See

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Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers for the ‘Mean Girls: The Musical.’ Though the writer of this article is an employee at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, they were not endorsed to write about the musical.   

Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa has wrapped up their fetch, two-week run of “Mean Girls: The Musical” which ran from March 7-19. First opening on Broadway back in April 2018, the musical adaptation of the cult-classic film was a hit, raved by audiences as one of the best movie-musical adaptations. While it no longer braces the Broadway stage, fans across the country have had the opportunity to see the musical on its first national tour. 

The plot is the same as the 2004 film starring Lindsey Lohan, but expands a bit on the film, diving deeper into important character dynamics and themes. Cady Heron (English Bernhardt) moves from Africa to America for the first time with her parents and is instantly thrust into the world of public high school. There, she meets Janis (Lindsay Heather Pearce) and Damian (Eric Huffman), who help her learn the different high school cliques so that they can figure out where she belongs. They ultimately team up to help take down the school’s popular girl trio called, “The Plastics”: Regina (Nadina Hassan), Gretchen (Jasmine Rogers) and Karen (Morgan Ashley Bryant). When Cady develops a crush on Regina’s ex-boyfriend, Aaron Samuels (Adante Carter), she eventually becomes Regina herself, and the claws come out. 

The script is strong, not missing any of the quotable moments and making many of them even better. Some audience favorites included the iconic scene when Regina’s mom (Heather Ayers) says “I’m not a regular mom, I’m a cool mom.” She’s wearing a pink velour sweatsuit that looks like it was swiped from Regina’s closet — which is part of the joke, of course — as she is desperate to fit in with her daughter’s teenage friends. 

Also, after Regina wears sweatpants on a Monday, Gretchen tells her, “That’s against the rules and you can’t sit with us.” These were Regina’s rules and had been enforced in the past, and now, Regina herself can’t try to circumvent them. Gretchen gets extremely upset as she explains that they have been following Regina’s rules for a long time, so she can’t break them now. Fans of “Mean Girls” can never forget the rules that the Plastics have about clothing, as this is one of the most memorable parts of the movie. It’s definitely satisfying watching Regina’s power start to dissolve throughout the show.

Image via scfta.org

The music is surprisingly impressive. The songs are catchy, showing off some especially strong vocals from Regina George when she sings “World Burn” and “Someone Gets Hurt” and likewise when Cady Heron sings “It Roars.” Also, like the film, the meanness is a large part of this storyline, but more so are messages about female empowerment that were understated in the film, now given their own songs like Janis’s power ballad “I’d Rather Be Me.” 

The musical may not necessarily be funnier than the movie, but it is certainly raunchier. Many pop-culture references have been given an update, including the use of social media and smartphones. The show also has a few of its own memorable jokes that weren’t present in the film, including a visual gag involving a mascot costume that had the audience roaring after the first act. 

There are clearly a few stand out performers in this tour’s cast. Pearce, who plays Janis Sarkisian, whose vocal cords are matched with perfectly delivered lines and comedic timing, had the audience laughing almost every time she came on stage. Pearce’s onstage dynamic with Huffman who plays Janis’ best friend Damian Hubbard has amazing chemistry. They are both perfect for these roles with endless applause after all of their scenes and for their songs.

Other noteworthy performances include Bryant who was hilarious as Karen Smith, the least intelligent of The Plastics group. Her performance in the song  “Sexy” was full of silly lines and phenomenal vocals, but made sure Karen was still a feminist icon: “This is modern feminism talking, I expect to run the world in shoes I cannot walk in.” Also, Bernhardt’s Cady Heron not only had powerhouse vocals but an immersive relationship with the audience where they felt for her despite becoming one of a not-so-nice Plastics herself.

The set design was almost entirely digital so that scene changes could be made in a matter of seconds while using minimal set pieces. This seamlessly created dynamic scenes for the characters to easily move in and out of, allowing the show to flow well and adding an interesting technological element.  

It may not be the instant classic that the movie was, but “Mean Girls” feels nicely true to the original while not just recycling its jokes. With a script blessed by the comedy of Tina Fey, a poppy score by her husband, Jeff Richmond, and clever lyrics by Nell Benjamin, the “Mean Girls” musical is stuffed with plenty of quips and one-liners. Just as its characters have to learn to be themselves, the musical does its own thing, making for a fun, nostalgic night out. 

Jacqui Pash is a former Entertainment editor from 2021-2022. She can be reached at jpash@uci.edu.