Back in 2004, a film came out that defined a generation; “Mean Girls” spoke to teenagers dealing with high school drama and gave them a hilarious lexicon to describe their plight. For those like me, “Mean Girls” was the most accurate expression of the zeitgeist. As an avid lover of the film and also a musical theater aficionado, I was excited but scared when I heard Tina Fey was adapting my beloved film into a musical.
But nothing about the “Mean Girls” musical disappoints. Quite simply, it is a triumph. It so perfectly adapts the beloved, generation-defining film on to the Broadway stage, adding fierce belts and group dance numbers with an ease that seems almost effortless. Composer Jeff Richmond, lyricist Nell Benjamin, and of course, director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw have certainly done an impeccable job. Often when movies are made into musicals the songs feel awkward and unnecessary, since audiences know that the original scene did not have (or need) songs. But this new musical makes it hard to imagine a “Mean Girls” without such soon-to-be iconic songs like Karen’s “Sexy” or Janis and Damian’s “Revenge Party.”
Adding any content into the already-iconic script of the musical was a risk — as was cutting some of the famous lines and scenes. Thankfully, Tina Fey has given the film’s devotees not only the “Mean Girls” they remember, but the “Mean Girls” musical they want, and dare I say, the musical they deserve after 14 years of devoted fandom.
Of course, a good portion of the musical feels new. After all, the classic 2004 story has been updated to 2018, complete with memes, twitter fights, emojis, and even a Trump reference. This update becomes quite noticeable in Gregg Barnes’ costumes. Barnes managed to fuse the color palette, silhouettes, and iconic looks of the movie into more modern outfits. Don’t worry, there is still just as much pink. Probably more, actually.
The modernization is also deeply felt in the set, which is made entirely up of curved, movable screens (set design by Scott Pask; video design by Finn Ross and Adam Young). Pask, Ross, and Young prove a perfect collaboration and have managed to master ultra-modern digital set, which usually reads as flat and boring on the stage. Perhaps what makes the usage of the screens so…