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Interview: English Bernhardt Talks MEAN GIRLS National Tour

Go see the absolutely "grool" English Bernhardt as the new Cady Heron in Broadway's MEAN GIRLS. Music Hall at Fair Park May 3-15.

Mean GirlsWith Dallas as her first stop as the full-time Cady Heron, English Bernhardt is coming in hot with a performance full of personality, popularity, and PINK! Bernhardt has showcased her undeniable talent in the National Tour of If/Then as well as in regional productions of Next to Normal, Les Misérables, and Evita. Now she takes on a leading role in Broadway's Mean Girls National Tour in Dallas May 3-15.

BroadwayWorld spoke with Bernhardt about her current role, her thoughts about the Mean Girls film and musical, and more!

Were you a big fan of the movie when it came out?

Absolutely. So, it's a funny story. I remember seeing the movie, but the person that actually introduced me to it and loved it was my brother. If you knew my brother, you would know that is so random and off the wall and out of character, but he got such a kick out of it and thought the writing was brilliant. I remember wanting to watch it because I liked the movie, but also wanting to watch it with him because it cracked me up that he, of all people, was into it. But absolutely, I was a fan. All the one liners, all the pink...I mean, everybody secretly wanted to be Regina George but felt like Cady Heron at school, so of course I loved it. I remember going to see the show-actually the dress rehearsal on Broadway the day before they opened-and I remember being like, "wow, they nailed it!" They do such a good job of giving you all of the one liners from the movie, but they've written this incredible score. The music by Jeff Richmond and lyrics by Nell Benjamin are so beautiful, and it's a feel-good piece of theater and a beautiful reflection of the movie, which Tina Fey also brilliantly wrote. I just loved it. So, once a fan, always a fan. Of course, now I'm a fan for life, but I guess I have my brother to thank.

When you first saw Mean Girls, did you have a favorite character?

I remember dying for Kate Rockwell, who played and originated the role of Karen in the musical, and she gave such a brilliant performance. I remember loving her big Halloween number "Sexy," where all these girls are Sexy Abraham Lincoln and Sexy Rosa Parks. The costumes that Gregg Barnes designed are gorgeous. "Sexy" is such a production number that I have to say Karen was my favorite.

How does the musical element add to the telling of the story?

The musical element adds another layer of the characters expressing their emotions and getting to know them on a deeper level. They voice some of their feelings and thoughts in these songs. You get to hear a little bit more of their inner dialogue, especially for Cady, like her questioning whether spying on these Plastics and giving into what she thinks and knows is a bad idea versus wanting to be liked and wanting to get this boy to like her back. So, I feel like a large part of the songs are the inner monologues that we don't hear as much, especially in the movie. Specifically in terms of a character in the musical that I remember thinking, wow, is Gretchen, because you get to see such a different layer of her. Megan Masako Haley, who actually graduated (as we're saying), has so brilliantly played it in our tour. Gretchen has this heartbreaking song called "What's Wrong With Me?" where you really feel for her. In the movie, you can see this girl who is kind of broken inside, has lost her way, wants to fit in, and plays one of Regina's minions, but she gets brushed to the side. Within this show and this musical number, you see how she's really feeling, and you can relate to her in a way that I don't feel is as quickly expressed in the movie. In the musical, you really get it and feel for her. So, I would say the musical element helps you relate to the characters more. It's a feel-good experience; it's so nice to sing along, and these songs are so catchy that it really elevates the whole story.

What is one fan favorite moment from the movie that is even better in the musical?

The line, "she doesn't even go here." When Eric Huffman, who plays Damian, says that line, the applause that comes-I am not even joking-sometimes it comes in two waves. They start laughing, and then it rebuilds. So that one is amazing because he honestly doesn't do much; he stands up in the bleachers, says the line, and the fans go wild. That one is pretty iconic. "Whatever, I'm getting cheese fries" is pretty good, but I think the way they set up "she doesn't even go here" in the musical is a home run every single show.

What is an important lesson the audience will learn from the show?

Be yourself and know that all of the unique things that you bring to the table are what make you special. Cady Heron goes on this journey of trying to fit in and trying to change her hair and personality to become this person that she's not, and it all crashes and burns. At the end of the day she realizes that she was better off being the girl she was from the start, and people liked her and thought she was more interesting and authentic before all of the lipstick, glamor, and fame. High school is rough for a lot of people, and in any new job, any new opportunity, it's easy to want to fit in. The show is a nice reminder, no matter how old you are, that all of the unique qualities that stand out about you are the best thing about you, and there's only one of you.

What's something unique about this specific performance of Mean Girls that the audience should be looking forward to?

This musical is a full circle story. It has this beautiful ending that hits home. It's about being who you are and knowing that you're good enough; it's about knowing you don't need to change, and you don't need to try to fit into some sort of stereotype or box. The musical does a really good job of tying it all in and giving you that lesson to go home with. It's very different writing for the screen versus writing for the stage, so I think the show does such a good job of giving you all the one liners you want to hear, beautiful production numbers, incredible choreography and dancers, as well as a wonderful story and message to go home with. It's the whole package, and it really can work for any age because again, it's something that we all deal with, and there's something for everyone. There's humor, love, heartbreak, betrayal, and conflict, and all of the above. You'll leave singing and dancing, hopefully feeling proud to be who you are, and going out into the world with energy and dressed in pink.

What is your favorite aspect of Cady's character?

When she first moves, she is so honestly and truthfully herself that when she has these weird interactions with people at school and feels like she doesn't know how to read the room or gauge the social setting, and shows up at the Halloween party dressed in a full wedding zombie bride gown, it's so genuine. She just simply doesn't know any better. She's not trying to be funny. She's not trying to be the joke. She's genuine and just doesn't know. Then as she evolves, you know that part of her is always deep down in there. It gets lost for a little bit in the show, but at the end she realizes that she was always better off being herself. I love that it's so open hearted and honest and real, and that's just who she is, and she doesn't apologize for it. She stands her ground, and at the end of the day, she comes back to her roots. She's full of heart and joy and is really a joy to play.

If you could describe the show in just a few words, what would those words be?

Fun, exhilarating, pink, heartwarming, strong, sexy. You get it all. You get sassy costumes, fun energy, betrayal, love, and all the relationships. It's a lot packed in 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Can you tell me a little bit about Change is Fetch?

Change is Fetch is a page that one of our cast members, Kaitlyn Smith, had the idea for. We were wanting a way to do some outreach and give back to the community through the show and through the platform that we have. A lot of the ways we could normally interact with the audience, like stage tours and backstage passes, are now gone because of the pandemic, so Change is Fetch has become a way for us to use our platform for the greater good and to give back. We've used it for doing various fundraising and for making sure that we are aware of the grounds that we're on and the history of the theater, community, and the different cultures. We've done a lot of outreach through Change is Fetch, but it's really a way for us to lift up the voices that are not always heard and make sure that we are giving back, even if we can't physically see people and hug people. Change is Fetch can donate or reach out and try to do a Zoom or Cameo for a school, and it's a way for us to have an easy channel to connect with people. It's really taken off, and they've done such an incredible job with it.

Does the cast have any plans to explore the Dallas-Fort Worth area while you are here?

It's normally a game time decision. We all get there, and we scope out the spots. I can assure you people will go for barbecue! It's funny because we all have the same taste, and we all want to go to the same places. I always look up the coffee shops and bars and restaurants, and nine times out of ten you go and there's another cast member there. So, it is funny that it seems like we all end up in the same spot. We don't have any set plans right now, but we will definitely get some good barbecue. We'll have to see what Dallas has in store!

What else would you like to share with the readers before opening night of Mean Girls?

You know, this is my first city taking over full-time and that comes with all kinds of emotions. I'm honored that Dallas is the spot, and it will always hold a very special place in my heart because of it. I'm grateful and excited, and it feels like a new chapter starting here in Dallas. So, I hope you're ready because we are coming in hot! We are very, very ready and excited.

Go see English Bernhardt as Cady Heron in Mean Girls. Music Hall at Fair Park May 3-15. Purchase tickets through the Broadway Dallas website. Run time: 2 hours and 45 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.



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From This Author - Emily Short

Emily Short is in her 6th year of teaching high school English but is a lifelong learner. She attended University of Kentucky for her BA in Secondary English Education and a minor in Communica... (read more about this author)


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