REVIEW: Mean Girls the musical

Mean Girls was Tina Fey’s popular film adaptation of the Rosalind Wiseman advice book, Queen Bees and WannabeesMean Girls (the movie) is also a perennial classic among my white, suburb-raised, mid-30’s friend group.  As with all things that show any promise of popularity among suburban, white women over 30, it was inevitable that the film would be translated into a Broadway musical, the national tour of which just landed in Minneapolis.  The blockbuster Lindsay Lohan star vehicle was edgy for its time, while also being highly relatable.  We were able to put ourselves in Linday’s shoes and empathize with her dilemmas.  The musical version offers few such opportunities. Perhaps too much time as passed.

Experience has taught me that, as a general rule, musical adaptions of popular movies never live up to my expectations–particularly when those movies weren’t musicals to begin with.  Mean Girls (the musical) features a number of incredibly talented actors, yet still left me a bit disappointed.  I believe that much of what makes the movie so lovable is lost in the stage production. In the musical, dialogue is simplified, and subtle, nuanced acting in the movie is replaced with exaggerated pantomime.  It’s not that there’s anything particularly wrong with Mean Girls (the musical), there’s just nothing particularly special about, either.  The story line is naturally predictable, the characters are even shallower stereotypes than in the film, the dance numbers are paint-by-numbers, and the songs–although performed by noticeably fabulous singers–failed to leave me humming a tune on the way home or day after.  Although the writers (including Tina Fey) inserted a host of new jokes to modernize the story, the “edge” of the movie is lost due to time and the jazz-hands-like gloss over the whole enterprise.

To be fair, I found the second half of the show to be more entertaining than the first. The song and staging for “World Burn” really got my intention for being a powerful and captivating number. I wish the amount of creativity brought forth in that scene was more present throughout.

I wasn’t thrilled with Mean Girls (the musical) but I would suspect that last night’s audience generally disagrees with me. There were plenty of moments where the audience burst out laughing and there was a lot of hooting and hollering for various plot moments. Musical veterans may roll their eyes at these predictable moments, but a lot of the audience was emotionally invested in that moment. All I could muster was an arched eyebrow but I’m admittedly jaded.
As a side note, this is one of the loudest musicals I’ve ever attended. My ears hurt for a majority of the performance. Bring ear protection if you are sensitive.
Also, today turns out to be Mean Girls Day, and the stars of the film have reunited in order to raise money for a good cause.  Whether you’re into the movie or the musical, it never hurts to see people thinking about the needs of others.  Click here to learn more.

Mean Girls is at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis through October 13, 2019. Tickets start at $40.

DEAL ALERT: Student/Educator rush tickets are available for all performances. Two tickets per valid student or educator ID. $30 per ticket, cash only. Available at the Orpheum Theatre Box Office two hours prior to showtime. Tickets are extremely limited and may not be together. Subject to availability.

Photo by Joan Marcus