Mean Girls was a success at the Straz

Mean Girls was a success at the Straz

Kaitlyn Schafer, Reviews, Features. and Editorials editor

In February of 2020, the Straz Center welcomed the U.S. tour cast of Broadway’s “Mean Girls” to the stage. “Mean Girls” is a musical based on the 2004 cult classic movie by the same name. Actress and comedian Tina Fey wrote the original screenplay for the 2004 film and adapted it into its stage form as well, so the musical still kept the same humor and iconic nature. Because of the production’s songs, script, humor and overall message, it is a performance that everyone should seek out and watch if they get the chance.

“Mean Girls” is about 16-year-old Cady Heron, who has been homeschooled by her scientist parents in Africa for 16 years. When her family moves to the suburbs of Illinois, she finally gets to experience public high school. She gets a quick primer on the cruel laws of popularity that divide her fellow students into tightly knit cliques. She unintentionally finds herself on the good side of an elite group of popular students dubbed “The Plastics,” and Cady soon realizes how her shallow new group of friends earned this nickname.

A major difference between the film and the musical is, of course, the addition of songs. The songs that the musical incorporated into the show seemed so natural, and they all fit into the story well. Some film to musical adaptions just do not flow as they should, which ultimately results in them flopping. Take “Carrie: The Musical” or “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” for example. “Mean Girls” added in 25 songs, some of the best being “Stupid With Love,” “Apex Predator,” “Revenge Party,” and a song is sung by the character Janis, “I’d Rather Be Me,” which was performed on “The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon.” Another bonus is that many of these songs incorporate the original film’s humor and well-known quotes.

Where Lizzy Caplan plays the character Janis Sarkisian in the film (right), Barret Wilbert Weed now plays the character in the musical (left). Janis Sarkisian is a character who is not afraid to just be herself, which helped produce the one of the most empowering songs in the musical. “I won’t twist in knots to join your game I will say you make me mad and if you treat me bad I’ll say you’re bad. And if I eat alone from this moment on that’s just what I’ll do… ‘Cause I’d rather be me… than be with you,” stated by Janis Sarkisian in the song “I’d Rather Be Me.”

The musical takes many of the same lines from the movie and puts them on stage, however, the script does take a different direction with Cady’s relationship with Regina George at the story’s end. In the second act, the writing was altered to give Regina George and Cady Heron better closure, which seemed to be only glossed over in the film. This addition to the musical helped get the morals of the story across much better. What this musical did was it most impressively expanded on the story’s primary purpose. The musical is willing to look at the structures that make girls mean, where the movie threw up its hands and declared the meanness of girls as just fate. Where the movie laughed at its girls, the musical is willing to seek the systems that make them act out and point its jokes in that direction instead.

There are so many themes in this story for both young and old generations that it is hard to list all of them. Many of the songs on the cast album express these lessons through its characters as they impact Cady. Two songs sung by the characters Janis and Aaron are especially crucial to the story and the people who are watching.

“I would prefer the girl you were, not who you’re trying to be. You think this works with me? Well you thought wrong. Looking at this place, I see you’re trying to erase what is best about yourself just to belong. You say more is always better, but there is less of you than there was before. So if more is always better, then you should have thought it through a bit more,” sung by the character Aaron Samuels in the song “More Is Better.”

“Mean Girls” is a production able to make its audience laugh, while also able to teach it several valuable lessons in the process. It tells people not to judge a book by its cover and in the words of Kevin Gnapoor, to not “let the haters stop you form doing your thang.” This musical has the potential to be one of the truly successful screen-to-stage adaptions, which makes it earn its 5/5 star rating.