The healthy box office tallies of the Mean Girls musical seem to imply that it appeals to folks who fondly remember the movie as well as their kids who are into the premise for the first time. (A new girl in an Illinois school confronts the reigning trio of beyotches, the Plastics, leading to swirling results.)
For the musical, Tina Fey wrote the script based on her 2004 screenplay, there’s music by Jeff Richmond, and lyrics by Nell Benjamin, and the deft direction and choreography is by Tony winner Casey Nicholaw ((Book of Mormon, Aladdin).
And with themes of oppression, bullying, demonization, and exclusion, naturally there’s an LGBT element—literally in the case of the two outcasts who narrate the cautionary tale: a maybe-lesbian (the fabulously punky and righteous Barrett Wilbert Weed) and Grey Henson, who scores in a potentially stereotypical role—the campy gay guy who loves George Michael, thinks his French name should be Fantine, and provides two showstoppers worthy of the squid in SpongeBob, even referencing Fosse! Henson is funny and doesn’t overdo his character’s glibness, simply providing it with expert timing and elan.
Along comes Cady (Erika Henningsen, who’s very good, despite having to sing so much to the audience), rocketing to North Shore High from Kenya. (Book of Mormon echoes pop up, along with shades of Dear Evan Hansen, when personal literature is leaked, though of course Evan came much later than the Mean Girls movie.) Cady befriends the outcasts in order to spy on the Plastics (the queen bee Taylor Louderman, the adoring Ashley Park, and the dumb-as-dirt Kate Rockwell, all three actresses appealingly fun as their hollow characters), who have a dress code and very few morals. But Cady ends up wanting to be as popular as they are, with inevitable lessons learned along the way to Math Team success and the cute guy, Aaron Samuels (Kyle Selig).
With imaginative sets by Scott Pask, which range from naturalistic to poppy, the longish show has many highlights and tries to humanize the material, with a running theme of “What’s wrong with me?” Fortunately, things never get too gooey, as snappy cracks take precedence over soul searching. The time period has been wisely moved to the present, when technology (and Trump) can be more properly spoofed. The result is very fetch, though the gays pretty much end up loveless if prideful.
Mean Girls is playing now at the August Wilson Theatre.