Broadway’s ‘Mean Girls’ stays true to movie—and its message of being true to yourself

In 2004, the hit film “Mean Girls” engaged viewers across the world. At around that time, Tina Fey starred in “Saturday Night Live,” “30 Rock” and five movies. After a 14-year period, she decided to bring “Mean Girls” to Broadway. The time was right, and now many, including this critic, are glad she did.

Some films have a difficult time making the transition to live theater. This isn’t the case with “Mean Girls.” The musical clearly delivers the movie’s core message: that putting down others won’t make people any better, and kindness is a key aspect of life. The story demonstrates the need to be yourself and not worry about what others think.

Cady Heron (Erika Henningsen), a 16-year-old teenager, moves from Africa to the suburbs of Illinois. She tries to adapt to the different lifestyle of school at North Shore High School. Welcomed to school by Damian (Daniel Franzese) and Janis (Barrett Wilbert Weed), she learns about the cultural differences between America and Africa—and the various cliques in the school. The Plastics are the three most popular and meanest girls in the school—Regina George (Taylor Louderman), Gretchen Weiner (Ashley Park) and Karen (Kate Rockwell)—and act like they’re superior to everyone else.  Cady changes as she follows in the footsteps of the Plastics to spy on their actions for Damien and Janis, but then starts to adopt their approach to high school life. Eventually, Cady realizes who her true friends are and that people will like her for who she is.

Unfortunately, we are all drawn to materialistic things. Finding yourself may take much longer than expected. Yet at some point, we start to realize who our true friends are, though it may take some time. This musical shows that there is room to make mistakes, because in the end, you need to be yourself. There is no point in trying to be someone you are not.   

Henningsen gives a stand-out performance as the lead. Her presence on the stage is confident and stays true to her character. When Cady first arrives at North Shore, she is portrayed as innocent, lost and gentle, wearing traditional African clothes. During the show, she becomes less innocent and is dressed in short skirts, heels and tank tops. Toward the end, Cady finds her true self as she dresses comfortably with confidence.

“Mean Girls” is relevant to the #metoo movement, taking a feminist stand. Scenes were added to the musical showing how women are strong and should not apologize for their strength.

The show is appropriate for ages 12 and up. The songs are meaningful and carry a strong message. “I’d Rather Be Me,” sung by Weed in the role of Janis, communicates the central idea of people being  themselves and not “following the crowd.”  

This musical compares well to the movie with the addition of songs and scenes and minor changes. Tickets are selling fast; take a trip down to the August Wilson Theatre as soon as possible.