“Mean Girls,” a Talent Machine Company summer production at Anne Arundel Community College, is the perfect vehicle for taking us back—some would say— to a terrible time in our lives. With music by Jeff Richmond, lyrics by Neil Benjamin, and book by Tina Fey, the musical is based on the film of the same name, which in turn is adapted from the book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” by Rosalind Wiseman. We re-experience the mean kids, the math geeks, the nerds, the gays, the artists, and all the unknown, un-cool kids that never even made it onto the radar screen. Somehow, this musical makes it all better.
The script and lyrics…are hilarious, but the real power of the musical comes from the significant talent amassed on stage by the Talent Machine, which has a deep bench here, thanks to director Christine Martini and musical director Andrew Gordon.
The story of “Mean Girls” revolves around Cady Heron, a homeschooled transfer student from Kenya. Everything about the school is foreign to her, and her soon-to-be friends Janis and Damian, try to help her find her social group. Cady is soon won over by the initial kindness of ‘the plastics,’ a trio of popular mean girls, Regina and her henchmen, Gretchen and Karen, who do Regina’s bidding. Life is further complicated by Cady falling for Aaron, Regina’s ex-boyfriend, who Regina immediately tries to win back.
The script and lyrics of the songs in “Mean Girls” are hilarious, but the real power of the play comes from the significant talent amassed on stage by the Talent Machine, which has a deep bench here, thanks to director Christine Martini and musical director Andrew Gordon. Starting with Janis (Finola Quin), the play opens with a bang. Quin can belt a song, and luckily has many opportunities throughout the evening to do so. She can also hold her own with her usual stage partner Damian, played by Daniel Jones, who comes close to stealing every scene he’s in. Along with a gorgeous and nuanced voice, he is described lovingly by Janis as ‘almost too gay to function.’ He knows how to work the audience, and nearly explodes with personality.
But wait, there’s more. Isabella Van Bergen inhabits her role as Cady beautifully, going from scared and unsure, to ‘plastic,’ and back again to a refreshing version of herself in the course of two hours. Queen mean girl, Regina (Madison Knoppel), is scary, but also sultry and sensual at the same time. She lets loose on songs in a way that sends chills down your spine. Gretchen (Rosalie Hess) and Karen (Lucy Dennis) are terrifically silly in their parts, and thankfully they have solos to show off their considerable vocal muscle. One surprising and delightful standout is the hard-rapping, dancing ‘mathlete’ Kevin, played by Nicholas Landerkin, who is oblivious to the ridiculousness of what he’s doing and just goes for it.
Other than amazing vocals, the stage is always busy with swirling choreography by Julia Daniel, Vicki Smith, and Natalie Dixon. They keep the entire cast busy and moving, and even offer an full-ensemble tap number just to show off, to the delight of the audience.
It is important to acknowledge the huge pool of talent on view in the region’s children’s theatre productions where no actor is older than 18. This Talent Machine production, along with other children’s theatre groups, rivals any “adult” production in the area with acting and musical talent. It is worth seeking out these shows for the sheer entertainment and to support of our next generation of performers. These large talents will be leaving us soon for parts and worlds unknown. Hopefully, we will be seeing them again.
Running Time: Approximately two hours with one 15-minute intermission.
“Mean Girls” runs through August 12, 2023 presented by The Talent Machine Co. at Anne Arundel Community College, Pascal Center for the Performing Arts, 101 College Parkway, Arnold, MD 21012. For more information and tickets, please go online. Upcoming evening shows are $20 and start at 7:00 pm with one matinee on August 12 at 2:00 pm.