BWW Album Review: There Is No Room In The Burn Book For MEAN GIRLS Original Broadway Cast Recording
Regardless of whether fetch happens or not, MEAN GIRLS fans can for sure be glad the 2004 hit film is now a musical. A 12 time Tony nominated show no less. The musical iteration of Tina Fey's MEAN GIRLS opened on Broadway last month after an out of town run in Washington D.C. Like the film, this new production tells the tale of Cady Heron (Erika Henningsen) and her mission to take down "the plastics", aka, the aforementioned "mean girls". The comedy and cleverness hits you like a bus with original music from Jeff Richmond and Nell Benjamin accompanying Fey's book. Atlantic Records released the original cast recording digitally on May 18, with a physical release date set for June 15.
Our story starts with Janis (Barrett Wilbert Weed) and Damien (Grey Henson) serving as narrators who set up the story as a "Cautionary Tale". The two orient us with the world of public school North Shore High. But first, they introduce us to our protagonist, Cady, and we learn about her move from the African savannas to the Chicago suburbs. They take us from the former where she was homeschooled, to the latter, with Cady's first foray into public high school. In other words, from a real jungle to a metaphorical one. In "It Roars", Cady sings the lyrical double entendre about being surrounded by animals and adventure all her life, but longing for a more normalized teenage experience. Then, voila, North Shore High School, here we come! Damien and Janis again introduce us and Cady to the social constructs of high school, aka the different cliques throughout the cafeteria in the catchy "Where Do You Belong". This track sets the tone for how things go in public school, with Damien singing "We all get a box and that's where we go, It's stifling but at least you know. So, where do you belong?"
This then brings us to the now-pop culture staple of The Plastics. Led by Regina George (Taylor Louderman), and backed with the affirmation-seeking Gretchen (Ashley Park) and not-so-smart Karen (Kate Rockwell). We "Meet the Plastics" in the aptly titled track, giving each of the three a peek into their characters perspectives and motivations with their own personalized melodies. The song builds to an overwhelming moment of them all singing over one another, which inevitably leaves Cady with an invitation to sit with them at lunch. From here, our story seems to really roll along, with Janis and Damien enlisting Cady to help take down the George regime. These songs kick off the first quarter of the album, and exemplify what it means for a song to push the plot along. Each track pushes the story along in ways that pay tribute to its derivative film, but not in a forceful manner. Fans of the film will not be disappointed, but in fact impressed with the musicality and the writers ability to pay tribute to the now classic lines. We are not left without the classics "On Wednesdays, we wear pink", or "October 3rd", or "You go Glenn Coco", and you get the picture.
Watch Barrett Wilbert Weed sing "I'd Rather Be Me" On The Tonight Show:
The album is rife with jams, offering a selection as eclectic as the lunchroom cliques. We hear the fun and poppy "Fearless", coming after Cady makes a big move in their plan against Regina. Janis delivers the her trust-fall anthem of "I'd Rather Be Me", where she calls out the cattiness and petty fighting, making for (arguably) the best song the show has to offer. We hear the threat in Regina's voice in "World Burn", which is a clever lyrically in riffing on the infamous "burn book". The list continues with Aaron Samuels (Kyle Selig) as the handsome jock who Cady falls for, telling his truth in the pretty "More Is Better". In summation, the music of the show really helps cater to the characters who are doing the telling. The different genres and styles enlisted by Jeff Richmond and Nell Benjamin really speak to the variety of personalities and viewpoints we get from the characters.
After giving the album a few spins, it is no shock to see why MEAN GIRLS is tied (with SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS The Musical) for the most nominated show this Tony season. The music and hilarity is so grool, it will have you wearing pink everyday of the week. Get the album and learn more about the show here, currently open at the August Wilson Theatre.