“Mean Girls” opens Tuesday night at the Bushnell, where it continues through Sunday. It’s one of many musicals crafted from blockbuster films to star The Bushnell in recent years. (Others range from “The Band’s Visit” to “Pretty Woman” to “Anastasia.”) This one is more true to its source than most, since the same person wrote both the movie and the musical: Tina Fey of “30 Rock” and “Saturday Night Live” fame.
“Mean Girls,” part movie and part musical, is about a 16-year-old math genius named Cady Heron, manipulating high school life in Chicago and an American school for the first time, after growing up at home. by his anthropologist parents in Kenya. She finds herself engaged in her own sociological escapade, coerced by some of her new school buddies into challenging the cliques that run the school.
The film may be a cult classic, but the play isn’t quite the same. Here are seven things to keep in mind or relearn as you head to The Bushnell for the most “recoverable” musical.
When many films are made into musicals, the original film crew is not necessarily involved. There were big exceptions, like Mel Brooks writing the songs for “The Producers,” but there are plenty of examples (“Pretty Woman,” “Groundhog Day”) where some of the original creative forces weren’t there anymore. or theater talents have taken work in a whole new direction.
For “Mean Girls,” Tina Fey reworked her own script and Jeff Richmond, who supervised the film’s music, wrote the songs for the musical.
There’s also only a 12-year gap between the movie’s release and the musical’s premiere, which is a quick turnaround in terms of movie to musical. “Once” took just four years to go from screen to stage, but “Pretty Woman,” which starred The Bushnell earlier this year, took 28 years. “42nd Street,” with new production at the Goodspeed right now, took 47 years, and “An American in Paris” took 63.
Jeff Richmond, who wrote the songs for the stage version of “Mean Girls,” has been married to Tina Fey since 2001. The pair have worked together on Fey’s many sitcoms, including “30 Rock,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” and Mr. Mayor” for “Saturday Night Live” and the legendary Second City improv theater group in Chicago, where they first met. “Mean Girls the Musical” isn’t Richmond’s first opening credits on Broadway. He wrote the original music for Becky Mode’s play “Fully Committed” when she was on Broadway in 2016. This play about a harassed restaurant worker was made by TheaterWorks Hartford in 2019 but without Richmond’s music.
“Mean Girls” goes on stage more easily than many films. The main locations are the high school hallways and the characters’ homes. Several scenes in the film willingly suggest musical numbers, and several natural ensembles (Les Plastiques, Les Mathletes, etc.) already exist to sing them. But change is good, and the musical “Mean Girls” brings changes that open up many new opportunities for its young performers.
The cast, both on Broadway and now on tour, is far more racially diverse than in the film.
One performer – on this tour, it’s April Josephine – plays three key adult roles: Cady’s mother, Regina’s mother, and kind teacher Mrs. Norbury (played by Fey herself in the film). Condensing all the adult roles makes the show much more focused on teenagers and their issues.
The spooky role of Coach Carr has been drastically reduced to the point where he is briefly played by an ensemble member, while the roles of Damian and Janis – the friends who urge Cady to upend the social strata of the school by undermining the top clique The Plastics – were upgraded to become the show’s co-narrators, sing multiple songs, and have more complex stories.
Plastics’ Christmas dance number is no longer “Jingle Bell Rock” – it’s been replaced by the more suggestive “Rockin’ Around the Pole”. The routine also ends differently, so rest assured no one in the front row of the Bushnell will be hit by a flying boombox.
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Yes, “Mean Girls” was already a movie. But like “Hairspray,” “Little Shop of Horrors” and “The Producers” before it, the musical version gets its own movie. In 2021, it was announced that “Mean Girls the Musical: The Movie” (or whatever it’s called) will be co-directed by Arturo Perez Jr. and Samantha Jayne. Like Fey and Richmond, Perez and Jayne are a married couple who also regularly collaborate on creative projects. The co-directors’ previous credits include the 2019 TV series “Quarter Life Poetry” and the 2018 documentary “McCartney: Grand Central.”
England’s Bernhardt, who plays impressionable new student Cady Heron in the musical, was on the nationwide tour of “If/Then” in August 2016. This show, which imagines the radically different paths a woman’s life can take. borrow, starred Jackie Burns and Anthony Rapp with Bernhardt as an ensemble member of the show. This time Bernhardt is the star.
Lawrence E. Street, who plays Principal Duvall, was on the nationwide tour of “Flashdance” which played a few times in Connecticut.
Daniel Franzese, who played gay teenager Damian in the movie ‘Mean Girls’ – and came out as gay himself in 2014 and became an activist for numerous LGBTQ+ causes – created a new persona for himself a while ago a few years. Franzese’s videos of himself Antoinette the Italian mom went viral and led to a new solo show. “Italian mom loves you!” had its world premiere last month at the Seven Angels Theater in Wallingford and was so successful that Franzese returns in triumph this month from October 6-23. The screenplay for “Italian Mom Loves You!”, based on the character of Franzese, is from Hartford-based playwright Jacques Lamarre. Details are 7atheatre.org.
“Mean Girls” is far from the first musical to be set around teenagers and high school. ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ and ‘West Side Story’ both happened in the 60s, with ‘Grease’ appearing in the early 70s. In the 2000s we had ‘Hairspray’ and ‘Spring Awakening’. More recently there have been ‘Be More Chill’, ‘The Prom’, ‘Dear Evan Hansen’, ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ and ‘The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical’.
“Mean Girls” isn’t even the first high school musical to be based on a movie. “Hairspray” arrived in 2002. The cheerleading adventure series “Bring It On” was turned into a stage show in 2012, created by an all-star team consisting of Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Hamilton”), Tom Kitt (“Next to Normal”), Jeff Whitty (“Avenue Q”) and singer/songwriter Amanda Green. On the darker side, there was “Carrie,” a notorious 1988 Broadway flop that’s still regularly produced, and the dark social satire “Heathers,” which is probably closest to “Mean Girls” in tone, nonconformity, and subject matter. You’ll see some of the shows listed among the cast’s previous credits of ” Mean Girls.” Nadina Hassan, who plays Plastic Queen Regina George on the show, did regional productions of “West Side Story” and “Be More Chill.”
“Mean Girls the Musical, with book by Tina Fey, music by Jeff Richmond and lyrics by Nell Benjamin, runs September 27 through October 2 at Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford. Performances are Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. $42 – $145. bushnell.org.