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REVIEW: Mean Girls makes 'fetch' happen in Philadelphia

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Mean Girls, the film-to-stage comedy produced by Lorne Michaels, Stuart Thompson, Sonia Friedman, and Paramount Pictures, premiered in Philadelphia on Tuesday, November 19 at Kimmel Center Cultural Campus’ Academy of Music, as part of the  2019-2020 Academy of Music Broadway Season. Credit: Joan Marcus

The stage show is based on the hit 2004 movie of the same name written by and starring Upper Darby’s own Tina Fey. The former Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock star based the plot on Rosalind Wiseman’s 2002 best-selling self-help book, Queen Bees & Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends & Other Realities of Adolescence.

The plot centers around Cady Heron (Danielle Wade), an only child previously homeschooled by her parents in Kenya, who moves to Chicago and enrolls in North Side High. Upon being “welcomed” by chants of “New kid sucks!” Cady is quickly taken in by Damian (Eric Huffman) and Janis (Mary Kate Morrissey), who clearly have a hard time fitting in amongst groups like the Plastics—the most popular girls at North Side, led by their treacherous leader and Queen Bee Regina George (played deviously by Mariah Rose Faith). Gretchen Wieners (Megan Masako Haley) and Karen Smith (Jonalyn Saxer, an original Mean Girls Broadway cast member) round out Regina’s little workers.” 

Despite striking up an instant friendship with Damian and Janis, (who warn Cady of Regina’s ruthlessness), the Plastics’ popularity and influence becomes all too appealing to Cady. After falling victim to one of Regina’s deceptions, she becomes determined to ruin her life (and eventually succeeds). In the process, Cady takes the mantle of Queen Bee and becomes the de facto leader of the Plastics. After achieving newfound popularity, a long-coveted boyfriend, and enough Instagram followers to make an influencer blush, Cady seemingly has it all. However, it comes at a cost, and the people she stepped on to get to the top, quickly become determined to take the sting out of the new Queen Bee.  Credit: Joan Marcus             

With its talented and diverse cast, combined with astounding direction and choreography from Tony Award-winner Casey Nicholaw, it’s clearly evident that Mean Girls has entered the pantheon of successful movie-to-musical adaptations. Even the updated pop cultural references are a nice touch and aren’t overused. The vocal performances that accompany the musical numbers are outstanding, and the seamless transition of sets throughout the two and a half hour show (colorfully designed by Scott Pask) is remarkable. 

In the lead role made famous by Lindsay Lohan, Wade, once a standby for the roles of Cady/Janis on Broadway, delivers an all-around outstanding lead performance. Wade makes a statement that she’s not taking a backseat to anybody during this national tour, while Faith clearly shines in the role of Regina, and nicely compliments the role first played by Rachel McAdams on the silver screen. 

The true standouts of the evening were Huffman and Morrissey (a Philadelphia native and Wicked alum). In most cases, the real winners in life are the authentic ones. Regardless of what situations they encounter, the characters of Damian and Janis stay true to who they are throughout the show and don’t change for anybody. This is truly the main lesson that Mean Girls teaches, and it’s a valuable life lesson younger and older individuals can take away from the show.      

First premiering at the National Theatre in Washington D.C., Mean Girls played to a sold-out run in the fall of 2017, followed by a Broadway opening in in April 2018 to rave reviews at the August Wilson Theatre, where it has played to sold-out houses since beginning previews in March 2018.

 

WARNING: Language and content might not be suitable for younger children.


Mean Girls runs from November 19 to December 1, 2019. Show dates and times are below. You can get tickets here.

Friday, November 22, 2019, 8:00 p.m.

Saturday, November 23, 2019, 2:00 p.m.

 Saturday, November 23, 2019, 8:00 p.m.

Sunday, November 24, 2019, 1:00 p.m.

Sunday, November 24, 2019, 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019, 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019, 1:00 p.m.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019, 7:30 p.m.

Friday, November 29, 2019, 2:00 p.m.

Friday, November 29, 2019, 8:00 p.m.

Saturday, November 30, 2019, 2:00 p.m.

Saturday, November 30, 2019, 8:00 p.m.

Sunday, December 1, 2019, 1:00 p.m.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com                                                                                                      

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Photo: Jean Marcus