NUNN'S THEATER HABIT
Mean Girls still has lessons to learn
Thu. January 11, 2024 12:00 AM
by Jerry Nunn
There are new Mean Girls attending North Shore High School and some things haven't changed 20 years later. The social landscape and technology have both evolved since the original release of the teen comedy in 2004, but people seem to still enjoy watching the drama set on a school campus.
Group education is a rite of passage for most people and can be traumatic depending on many factors. Tina Fey used her personal experiences and the book Queen Bees and Wannabes to construct a tale rooted in hierarchy. Her protagonist, named Cady Heron, showed others that it was okay to be smart and travel the world. The plot involved her acclimating to the school environment while navigating relationships.
Australian actress Angourie Rice portrays Heron with a doe-eyed sweetness and a reed-like voice in this project.
Renee Rapp is a blossoming bisexual star and plays the multilayered Regina George with gusto. Performing the role on Broadway has paid off and more of a career in music looks to be on the horizon. Busy Philipps uncannily resembles her and has obvious fun being Mrs. George. This works on many levels because Mean Girls can cash in on the valuable mother-and-daughter audience. Fans of the first film can now take their kids to this version and bond over the jokes. Mean Girls is generational and is reminiscent of classic female-fronted flicks like Heathers, Jawbreaker and Clueless.
This time it is a musical for those confused by The Color Purple. Is Pretty Woman the musical next for the big screen?
There are a few similarities to both movie musicals that were released within a month of each other. Not putting the word musical in the title has resulted in the public thinking it's a remake, reboot, sequel or prequel.
Transitioning between reality to dream sequences of the songs was smoothly executed, but segments were missing. The runtime of the film of 102 minutes forced the creative team to cut the Mean Girls stage version down to losing a whopping 14 songs. In the musical “Where Do You Belong / Meet the Plastics” there's a red lunchroom tray bit that's sadly missing.
There are many cameos along the way such as Principal Duvall Tim Meadows and teachers, Jon Hamm as the sex educator Coach Carr as well as French-focused Madame Park from Ashley Park, who originated Gretchen Wieners on Broadway. Bebe Woods works Weiners this time and eventually has a shining moment in the spotlight for the film version.
Just like Will & Grace's Jack and Karen, Jaquel Spivey as Damian Hubbard and Auli?i Cravalho as Janis 'Imi'ike steal every scene and also provide important LGBTQ+ representation. They show it's empowering to not be bothered by what others think of them and what a challenging lesson that can be to learn.
The message of Mean Girls still rings true even if the musical moments are downplayed in this version. Fetch still hasn't happened but maybe one day…
Watch your back Barbie, fans of Mean Girls will be wearing pink to the theater, especially on Wednesdays as the Burn Book turns a new page and opens everywhere on January 12, 2024.