“Mean Girls” opens as a high school assembly for freshman with two of the lead sidekicks. The bitter, yet cool, Janis (Mary Kate Morrissey) and the flamboyantly gay Damien (Eric Huffman). They treat us to what is in store with a resounding performance of “A Cautionary Tale” with impressive vocals and range by Morrissey and Huffman holding his own. The play is fierce with great comedic acting and phenomenal performances. The national touring company of this Broadway show pulls all the stops in this musical version taken from the 2004 film. From an award-winning creative team, including book writer Tina Fey (“30 Rock”), composer Jeff Richmond (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), lyricist Nell Benjamin (“Legally Blonde”), and director Casey Nicholaw (“The Book of Mormon”), it is based, in part, on “Queen Bees and Wannabees,” a self-help book by Rosalind Wiseman. The story is familiar—a relatable journey of high school cliques and bullying, with well-defined characters and a laudable message: Don’t change who you are just to fit in with the popular crowd.
…great comedic acting and phenomenal performances. …cleverly choreographed ensemble numbers which were original, bright and eye-popping…
The musical’s plot follows closely to the film. Cady, played perfectly by Danielle Wade, grew up and was homeschooled in Kenya. Her family moves to Chicago where she enrolls in a public high school for the first time in her life. This is quite the fish-out-of-water scenario which allows two quirky kids, Janis and Damien, to befriend her and fill her in on the school’s cliques. They warn her about the “Plastics,” the most popular girls in school. The group is led by the narcissistic Regina George (played with an iron fist by Nadina Hassan) and her wannabees, Karen (played strongly by Megan Masako Haley) and Gretchen (a smart performance by Jonalyn Saxer). The talent in this show far exceeded expectations. Wades vocals, spotlighted when she belts out the song “It Roars” in the first act, gave me goosebumps. Hassan, Haley, and Saxer are of the same caliber. Even though you may dislike the characters at times, it is difficult not to love their performances.
Cady, of course, falls in to the trap of changing herself to fit in. She transforms herself to be more like the “Plastics” which is fun at first, but in the end, becomes friendship suicide. Cady “acts stupid” to get the attention of the love interest, Aaron Samuels (Adante Carter) who is the classic, good looking, dream boat. But Cady has misjudged him as being dumb to get his attention and it backfires. She also alters the way she treats her real friends which upsets everything in her life. The musical gets to the heart of what it means to be a true friend, a worthy nemesis, and above all, a human being.
This is a high energy promenade with an equally high energy (literally), technically-brilliant scene design, made up of 650 LED tiles. Kudos to the Production Video Engineers, Ian Crawford and Danielle Mueller; Associate Scene Designers, Orit Jacoby Carroll, Gabriel Firestone, and Mark Koss; and the Stage Manager, Michele Dunn. The innovative, LED backdrop transports the audience—from Kenya with dazzling, realistic video to dull, high school hallways, classrooms, and bedrooms—seamlessly. These alone are worth the price of admission. The lighting, by Joel Shier, Wilburn Bonnell, and Scott Tusing, is masterfully utilized throughout adding excitement and in tune with the sound and music, highlighting important story points. I am sure there are many missed in this list, but all should be applauded. The shows colorful costumes were created by Brooke Cohen Brown, Meriwether Snipes, Avery Reed and Tricia Barsamian. They are so well-executed that may have upstaged the cleverly choreographed ensemble numbers which were original, bright, and eye-popping (watch for a cool bit in which kids use cafeteria trays as drums and dance props). A standout cast member in the Mathletes outcast group is Kevin G, played by Kabir Bery who is a radiant hip hop dancer, rapping vocalist, and comedic actor.
The second act is even better with incredible dancing and vocals that mesmerized. Gretchen, second in charge of the “Plastics,” sings the poignant song, “What’s Wrong With Me,” enriched with empathy. Equally captivating is voice of April Josephine as Mrs. George (one of three characters she plays.) Mary Kate as Janice explodes on the stage with the song, “I’d Rather Be Me.” Wade is riveting in the song, “Fearless”(reprise). As storylines like these play out, everything and everyone turn out fine in the end, even for Regina who almost died when she was hit by a bus (not a spoiler if you saw the film). The whole cast comes together in the finale with “I See the Stars.” It expresses the moral of always being true to who you are with stars appearing in the night sky, above and on stage. This is a must see!
Running time: Approximately two hours and 30 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.
Advisory: Sexual references in the show which may not suitable for young kids.
“Mean Girls” runs through April 24th, 2022 at the Kennedy Center Opera House, 2700 F St NW, Washington, DC 20566. For more information and tickets, either click here or call the box office at 800-444-1324. Proof of vaccination and masks required.