NME After Print: Mean Girls at Popejoy Hall
There is something to be said about the effectiveness of the modern-day high school film. I am still a sucker for them after all these years. Maybe the sense of realizing in two hours that high school should not be taken seriously. “Mean Girls” was the quintessential high school film. It got across everything that many of us experienced and shared the message that being unique is where it’s at. Strangely enough, when I heard that the hit film is now a musical, I had some reservations. I often do when it comes to making a movie into a musical. The idea of Legally Blonde as a musical still gets me. But it is one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen. So, I put my bias aside when I found out that it was coming to Popejoy Hall.
My daughter and I watched the movie repeatedly, and, just like me, she was skeptical about how well this would work. We were excited to be back in a theater after a year and a half. When we entered, we were immediately blown away by the massive scale screen on the stage. It was projecting the Burn Book pages. Some of the nastiest comments about people are up-close and personal for you to view. It set the stage for the evening. The show opened with Janice and Damian performing, A Cautionary Tale, and my doubts are gone. We were witnessing an all-out Broadway extravaganza - set in a high school! They had everything from tap numbers to Chorus lines. But it kept the hilarity and angst that we saw in the movie.
Keeping in theme with what 2001 seems to be about, the cast was incredibly diversified. Cady, played by Danielle Wade, was light and breezy but could bring out that mean girl within. Regina George, played by Nadina Hassan, was a shocking but refreshing reveal. In a world where the blonde is queen, Hassan shows that a Colombian-Egyptian actress can also take that crown. But she proved her spot during Meet the Plastics with a powerful alto-soprano range that belted some outrageous notes. Gretchen Wieners is presented more for this Broadway adaptation than in the movie. Megan Mayakovsky Haley played the perfect mix of loyal, insecure, and deranged. While you might have guessed how Gretchen truly felt about Regina in the movie, she poured all over the stage in the musical. Karen Smith, played by Jonalyn Saxer, is a comic marvel. She reminds me very much of Missi Pyle in her comedic timing. She elevates the role of intelligent-challenged Karen, keeping us laughing throughout the evening. But when everything is said and done, Eric Huffman and Mary Kate Morrissey, who played Damian and Janis, stole the show for me. Already favorite characters of mine from the film, Huffman, and Morrissey kept the magic of the freaky duo while taking their spin on it. Huffman is the ultimate showman. Stop is not only my favorite number, but it is now my new battle cry. And can we say there need to be more tap numbers in Broadway shows! Morrissey showed off her strength in the song, I'm Fine. When she hit that high note, the theater shook! The girl is funny and tough - and what a voice!
My nervousness is put to rest. Mean Girls the Musical is one of the best productions I’ve seen in a long time. The good name of Mean Girls is not sullied. Plus, it kept the message loud and clear - believe in yourself and do not allow others to define who you are. Janice says it best in I Rather Be Me -
“… So here's my right finger
To how girls should behave
'Cause sometimes what's meant to break you
Makes you brave.”
Mean Girls runs until December 12th at Popejoy Hall. Purchase your tickets at PopejoyPresents.com/mean-girls.
- Teresa Robinson