‘Mean Girls the Musical’ set to hit the San Francisco stage this summer


Joan Marcus

Gretchen (Ashley Park), Regina (Taylor Louderman), and Karen (Kate Rockwell) take Cady (Erika Henningsen) to the mall while Janis (Barrett Wilbert Weed) warns her of the dangers of the plastics.

The 2004 teen movie classic “Mean Girls” is an iconic staple for middle school sleepovers, complete with witty one-liners, exciting characters, and an engaging plot. Over 26 years after its release, it has gained an unexpected musical adaptation. The musical was one of the highest-grossing on Broadway before the shutdown and, following the shelter-in-place orders, “Mean Girls the Musical” will play at the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco.  

“Mean Girls the Musical” successfully takes a beloved story and adds high energy dance numbers and entertaining music. Most of the characters are interesting and funny. Fans of the movie will be pleasantly surprised with how similar the musical is to the film in terms of jokes and plot. It can also be easily enjoyed by those who are not fans of the movie due to its great music and acting. 

The story follows Cady, who has just moved from Africa to the United States to go to high school for the first time. She quickly befriends Janis and Damian, two social outcasts who make her feel welcome. Soon after, she catches the eye of the school’s queen bee, Regina, who invites Cady to sit with her and her two friends, Gretchen and Karen. Cady accepts, and she, Janis, and Damian formulate a plan to take down Regina. 

The music fits the story and tone very well, and it rarely seems unnatural or unnecessary for the characters to break into songs. It’s very entertaining to see different plot points in the original movie turned into songs. A few examples of this are when Damian shows Cady around the cafeteria and explains the different cliques; it becomes a hilarious, upbeat show tune complete with a dance number and, of course, jazz hands. Another example of an important plot point that became a song is the sabotage against Regina, such as the diet bars and tricking Gretchen into revealing Regina’s secrets, which became a catchy and extremely entertaining song called “Revenge Party.” The music also helps the audience feel connected to the characters by perfectly conveying each character’s personality and emotions.

Each character has a unique musical style that conveys the person’s personality. Cady’s songs are lighthearted and happy, Regina’s songs are all-powerful with insane belting to make her seem threatening, Karen sings only one piece, but it is bubbly, fun, and hilarious. Janis has a strong and almost punk rock sounding voice, which suits her outcast personality. Finally, Damian sings the most traditional Broadway songs, one of which even has a tap break. All these characters are created to take everything beloved about the original characters and give them more depth. 

Although most of the characters are interesting, funny, and convincing, fans of the movie may be disappointed in Gretchen’s character on stage. In the film, Gretchen is just the right amount of whiny and insecure but still funny. In the musical, her humor is lost and replaced by more whiny and annoying behavior. The show tries too hard to make the audience feel bad for her. This is most apparent in her songs “What’s Wrong With Me?” and “What’s Wrong With Me? Reprise,” which are each two minutes of Gretchen crying over Regina not liking her enough. These songs are neither funny nor emotional; they are dull and annoying and make her character unlikable. 

The set is pretty typical, especially considering most of the set is just a giant screen with some furniture, but it still fits the show well because the show mainly takes place at a school, mall, and house. Additionally, the more simple sets contrast the few dramatic scenes with over the top sets, like “World Burn,” making the scenes more impressive by comparison. But what makes up for the simple sets is the choreography. The choreography creatively incorporates the set pieces like lunch tables or mall benches to create high energy dance numbers. A unique aspect of the choreography is that it adds to the idea of comparing teenagers to African animals. In the song “Apex Predator,” the ensemble’s dancing mimics animals’ movements to create an overall impressive and different scene.   

As far as musical adaptations of movies go, this could be one of the best. Its peppy songs, high energy dance numbers, witty script, funny characters, and convincing acting make “Mean Girls the Musical” an excellent show for viewers of all ages, fans of the movie, and even those who have never heard of the plot.

[star rating=”4/5″]