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Review: MEAN GIRLS at Saenger Theatre

Now on stage at the Saenger Theatre

Review: MEAN GIRLS at Saenger Theatre

It's time to bust out your favorite pink clothes and sharpen your claws as the Broadway sensation MEAN GIRLS plays at the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans this week.

Based on the 2004 Tina Fey-scripted film, this super-colorful and animated stage show offers a look into the trials and tribulations of high school cliques with Pepto pink panache. The dream team behind the musical is book writer Fey, composer Jeff Richmond (Fey's husband), Nell Benjamin (lyrics), and director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw.

The script follows the film, telling the story of Cady Heron (Mary Beth Donahoe), a new girl trading in the backdrop of Kenya for the wilds of Chicago. Cady is more apt at knowing the sounds of different bird calls than teenage culture. And at the prompting of high school misfits Janice (Adrianna Scalice) and Damien (Eric Huffman), she attempts to fit in with the Plastics. They're the A-list clique at her new school. Only she finds out how shallow her new friendships are after she falls for the ex-boyfriend of "Apex Predator," Regina George (Olivia Renteria).

Onstage Donahoe and Renteria give dynamic performances that showcase their immense individual talent as Cady and Regina. Scalice shines as the feminist Janis, providing the show with some of its most emotional high notes. Huffman's funny Damian serves as a moral compass in a role filled with exceptional singing and outrageous comedy.

The other two Plastics, Gretchen Wieners (Jasmine Rogers) and Karen Smith (Morgan Ashley Bryant) are mostly yes women who follow Regina's whims. Gretchen, who suffers from low self-esteem, begs for Regina's approval while being knocked down a peg by her friend at the same time. Rogers' emotional performance "What's Wrong With Me" shows an emotional nuance to the character of Gretchen.

Karen, "the stupid one," has random bursts of hilarious insight and a few touching moments to show that she's the least toxic person in school. Karen's heart is anything but plastic, and Bryant's performance was very endearing to audience members.

Devoted fans and those new to MEAN GIRLS will find much to enjoy about the musical and the laughs that have become meme-worthy over the years. Fey follows the major beats of her original script but has also updated it with new, contemporary gags such as updated dialogue and the influence of social media on a teenager's life (btw, this year's talent show is #scandalous). But the one thing that remains the same is the sharp humor of the script, which deserves nothing but straight A's.

Not to mention director/choreographer Nicholaw got the assignment. The ensemble is excellent with enthusiastic energy, great dancing and vibrant vocals for the two-and-a-half-hour performance. The stage moves and bends with non-stop swirling traffic in perfectly executed dance movement. During the song "Where Do You Belong," the ensemble uses lunch trays as instrumental bright red props while moving lunch tables around seamlessly. And thanks to the large-scale LED video screens, scenes effortlessly transform from the high school hallways to the shopping mall to a Halloween party.

Indeed, MEAN GIRLS was a refreshing and engaging night of theatricality. It's not like a regular musical. It's a cool musical.

MEAN GIRLS runs now through May 22nd at the Saenger Theatre.

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