Review: ‘Mean Girls’ at August Wilson Theatre

By Blaise Buckley on 27 April 2018
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Tina Fey’s breakout film “Mean Girls,” which every millennial has seen countless times, was something Fey always planned to turn into a Broadway musical and the day has arrived.  “Mean Girls,” the musical, opened on Broadway last week and, while it’s certain to bring a smile to even the unhappiest of people, it’s a messy clunker with what has to have the worst song I’ve ever seen performed on a Broadway stage.

The whole score thankfully doesn’t compare to that song, “Whose House is This,” performed during Cady’s (Erika Henningsen) big house party that could and should have been removed from the two hour and forty minute show. The good news is that the story line stays completely true to the film.

“Where Do You Belong?,” Damian’s (Grey Henson) first big musical number by the guy who is “almost too gay to function,” features spinning cafeteria tables in a large flashy typical musical theater number, is one of the few songs worth going to the show to see live. Many of the numbers received a painfully lukewarm reception, less so than I’d ever seen in a Broadway theater.

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Tina Fey’s book might just win all the awards in this very weak season for new musicals. It’s as hilarious as the film, with all our favorite punch lines perfectly reprised and fresh jokes to keep your cheeks hurting for the duration of the show.

Casey Nicholaw, the talented Broadway director and choreographer known for big musical hits such as “Spamalot,” “The Book of Mormon,” and “Aladdin,” could not have done anything more to save the unbearable musical score. The ensemble is young, as the show takes place in a high school, but they’re just not as sharp, or in sync, as what has become the expected norm for what a Broadway show should look like, so his flawless choreography seems to lack the performer talent it deserves.

The lead casting is spectacular and the most noteworthy reason to see the show. Ashley Park, who plays Gretchen, has been delighting audiences on New York stages for a few years and she was just nominated for  Outer Critics Circle, Drama League, and Drama Desk awards for her performance in Mean Girls. Damien is also giving a break-out performance, helped by his material being superior to the others’ in the show. Longtime Broadway regular Kerry Butler, who plays three adult female roles, is so good I don’t think most in attendance realized she was the same person every time she walked on stage as a different character.

Last year’s Tony Award winner for best actor, Ben Platt, attended the opening of the show and instagrammed a picture with the tagline “@meangirlsbway has like 5 tour de forces in it so you should see it.” He didn’t have to tell you any of the negatives, but apart from the three actors mentioned above I imagine the other two “tour de forces” are Janis and Regina, respectively played by Barrett Wilbert Weed and Taylor Louderman.

If you’re a fan of the film, it’s definitely a must see now with this cast, as the material definitely won’t win over audiences when performed by amateur high school and community theatre productions. I imagine it won’t be able to survive on its title alone once this hard to replace cast moves on.

THE DETAILS

Mean Girls
August Wilson Theatre
245 W 52nd Street
New York, N.Y. 10019
Runtime: 2 hours and 30 minutes
www.meangirlsonbroadway.com

(Photos: Accura Media Group)

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