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Review: Mean Girls Can't Make Fetch Happen at PPAC

Despite the myriad talents of Fey and music director Jeff Richmond, Mean Girls the musical can’t capture the magic of the film and feels rather underwhelming.

Review: Mean Girls Can't Make Fetch Happen at PPAC

It's a little bit surprising that the film version of Mean Girls was both a good movie, and also a hit. Based on a non-fiction book about high school cliques that was aimed at parents and teens, it was transformed into a charming comedy by Tina Fey in 2004. It's not too much of a stretch to think that the creators could get lightning to strike twice by transforming this beloved story into a Broadway musical, but despite the myriad talents of Fey and music director Jeff Richmond, Mean Girls the musical can't capture the magic of the film and feels rather underwhelming.

The storytelling is framed by Janis (Lindsay Heather Pearce) and Damian (Eric Huffman) telling the audience the "Cautionary Tale" of Cady Heron's move from Kenya and being home-schooled, to a traditional high school in Illinois. The most popular lines and scenes from the movie are included in the musical, and the story follows the same trajectory, but this time with songs. Unfortunately, for this production, the songs are rather pedestrian, and don't add much overall. The talent of the cast is undeniable, but the most noteworthy aspect of the music is a heavy reliance on super high-pitched belting. While it was very impressive, it started to feel overdone by the end of the show.

One thing the stage version of Mean Girls does that was a welcome alteration, was to expand the Karen character a bit more. Karen, for those not intimately familiar with the film is described as "the dumbest person you will ever meet", but she's also the only character who seems immune to the aggressive social climbing that leaves a path of destroyed former friends in one's wake. Brought to life by Morgan Ashley Bryant, Karen served as a delightful dose of comic relief. Even though the girls who portray The Plastics clique are supposed to be very similar in looks and style, Karen really stands out and makes the others seem interchangeable.

Since the stage version is so similar to the movie, there are a lot of scene changes. The production relies heavily on projections to move the audience from place to place, and while sometimes it works quite well, other times it becomes over the top and distracts from the talented cast and ensemble. Nadia Hassan and English Bernhardt as Regina and Cady are both fantastic. Hassan in particular gets to stomp the stage and act wildly intimidating, which she seems to be relishing. Damian and Janis's scenes are often the most memorable, largely due to the talents of Huffman and Peace, but also because they're so much more down-to-earth than the other characters.

Overall, Mean Girls superfans will certainly want to see this production. The challenge of transforming a beloved film into a musical is a daunting one, but in trying to stay so true to the original, this version ends up feeling a bit repetitive and not fresh enough. However, it does have its charms, and the talent of the cast is exciting to see.

Mean Girls runs October 4-9 at Providence Performing Arts Center. Tickets at ppacri.org.

Photo Credit: Morgan Ashley Bryant (Karen Smith) and the National Touring Company of Mean Girls Credit: © 2022 Jenny Anderson




From This Author - Andria Tieman


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It’s a little bit surprising that the film version of Mean Girls was both a good movie, and also a hit.  Based on a non-fiction book about high school cliques that was aimed at parents and teens, it was transformed into a charming comedy by Tina Fey in 2004. It’s not too much of a stretch to think that the creators could get lightning to strike twice by transforming this beloved story into a Broadway musical, but despite the myriad talents of Fey and music director Jeff Richmond, Mean Girls The Musical can’t capture the magic of the film and feels rather underwhelming.

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