BWW Review: MEAN GIRLS Makes the Transformation From Movie to Musical
In the television show, 30 Rock, Tracy Jordan, the self-centered actor played by Tracy Morgan, decides his life-goal is to EGOT (meaning to capture Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards). Jordan asks Whoopi Goldberg, an EGOT winner herself, for advice.
"You cannot fake your way to an EGOT, fool," Goldberg said. "You know, all these awards I got, I got for projects I believed in."
"Wait, is that a Daytime Emmy?" Jordan asked.
"It still counts. Girl's got to eat."
Tina Fey, who created 30 Rock and wrote the book for the movical MEAN GIRLS, might have a chance to do what Jordan only dreamed about. The two-act, nearly two-hour musical rolled into Columbus for a brief stopover Oct. 22-27 at the Ohio Theatre (39 E State Street in downtown Columbus).
The musical, based on Fey's movie of the same name, was an impressive first foray into the theatre. Like 13 and HEATHERS, it trots through the catty battlefields of secondary school. The musical centers around popular girl Regina George's "burn book," in which she and her two friends Gretchen Wieners and Karen Smith write nasty comments about the student body of North Shore High School. While that might seem a little 1980s for some, Fey and company updated the script from the 2004 film to include barbs about social media, sexting, and the things people say when they think they're invisible.
At the beginning of the musical, Cady Heron (Danielle Wade) has just left roaming the jungles with lions and wildebeests of Kenya and lands in the Formica tangle of piranhas and cliques of high school. Social outcasts Janis Sarkisian (Mary Kate Morrissey) and Damian Hubbard (Eric Huffman) help Heron navigate the iffy wilderness of the Plastics, jocks, sexually active band geeks, and of course, the dreaded Mathletes. Heron eventually falls under the spell of the Plastics' Regina George (Mariah Rose Faith) and her minions Smith (Jonalyn Saxer) and Gretchen Wieners (Megan Masako Haley). She sets aside her ethics, wardrobe, and her friends with Sarkisian and Hubbard to climb to the top of the popularity ladder. She even passes herself off as math-impaired to get her crush Aaron Samuels (Adante Carter) to tutor her in a subject she excels in.
As usually is the case in musicals and, in rare cases, real life, Heron compromises her way to the top and even dethrones George as the Queen Bee. Then she finds the Chanel Grand Extrait scented air not as great as she hoped. Think of it as EVITA set in a high school cafeteria.
Wade shines brightly to portray the complex and ambitious Heron. Morrissey and Huffman serve as the audience's sardonic narrators for the evening's affairs while the Plastic trio of Faith, Saxer and Haley play off each other perfectly as the ruthless (George), the gutless (Weiner) and the brainless (Smith).
What separates a good musical from the mediocre ones is finding the right combination of songs that stay with the audience for days afterward. With songs like "Cautionary Tale" and "Whose House Is This?" composer Jeff Richmond, Fey's husband, and lyricist Neil Benjamin weave wit and tuneful melodies together to complement Fey's quirky script.
Fey already has an Emmy to her credit for her work on 30 Rock and was nominated for a Tony in 2018 for her work on MEAN GIRLS. If she can match the wit of her freshman effort and continue to evolve as a writer, one wonders if the EGOT might be within her grasp.
MEAN GIRLS closes its run this weekend with shows on performances 8 p.m. Oct. 26, 2 p.m. Oct. 26 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the Ohio Theatre (39 E. State Street in downtown Columbus).