MEAN GIRLS at the Wharton Center is a witty, sharp musical with a powerful message

Pictured (L-R): Danielle Wade (Cady Heron), Megan Masako
Haley (Gretchen Wieners), Nadina Hassan (Regina George),
Jonalyn Saxer (Karen Smith), Mary Kate Morrissey (Janis Sarkisian),
and the National Tourism Company of mean girls
Credit: © 2021 Jenny Anderson

So go find it! off broadway mean girls is at the Wharton Center in East Lansing until Sunday, March 6. Based on the 2004 film, mean girls premiered on Broadway in 2018 and was subsequently nominated for 12 Tony Awards.

The story of mean girls is as follows: Cady Heron is a teenager living in Kenya with her parents, until they needed to move back to the United States. Cady begins attending North Shore High, a school in suburban Chicago. During her fishing experience out of the water in North Shore, Cady simultaneously befriends a pair of art nerds and popular girls. She is soon pushed into a plan to overthrow the Queen Bee while remaining “friends” with her, and that very plan fundamentally changes everything about Cady and the rest of the school.

If you were active in online communities between the mid-2000s and early 2010s, you likely encountered more memes and quotes from the mean girls film that you can’t count (eg, “The limit does not exist”, “Stop trying to make fetch, it won’t happen”, “I’m not an ordinary mother, I’m a cool mother “, just to name a couple). The fact that it was such a quotable movie could have put a lot of pressure on the musical to be identical to the source material in order to appease fans of the film. That said, the musical doesn’t feel heavy at all. It honors the cult classic by including some of the aforementioned favorite lines and memes, but it doesn’t overdo it. The musical is an entity in its own right and that’s the best thing you could ask for from a musical based on a popular movie.

One of the most successful aspects of mean girls is how they use technology to further develop the various parameters of the show. The show is largely based on these giant screens bordering the back of the stage. While it might seem like a cop-out to some, with the look of these screens, you’d never know you weren’t in Kenya, a fictional suburban mall, or North Shore High. The graphics are extremely well done and truly a great example of how far theater has come in recent years. Of particular interest is how physical backdrops (e.g., desks, bedroom sets, bathroom stalls, lunch tables, etc.) mesh with virtual backgrounds.

mean girls
Pictured (LR): Megan Masako Haley (Gretchen Wieners), Nadina Hassan (Regina George), Jonalyn Saxer (Karen Smith) and Danielle Wade (Cady Heron) and the National Touring Company of mean girls
Credit: © 2021 Jenny Anderson

When it comes to onstage talent, it’s obvious that the actors know their characters well. They make them their own, to the point that they are not far from the caricatures of their film counterparts. This helps to further differentiate the musical from the movie it was based on.

Plus, many of the main cast have their own standout moments (and in most cases, some have several). Particular favorites include: “I’d Rather Be Me” by Janis (sung by Mary Kate Morrissey), “World Burn” by Regina (sung by Nadina Hassan), “Sexy” by Karen (sung by Jonalyn Saxer), “Stop ” by Damian (sung by Eric Huffman), “What’s Wrong With Me?” by Gretchen (normally sung by Megan Masako Haley, but performed admirably by stunt double Olivia Renteria on day one at Wharton), and Cady’s first act “Fearless” (sung by Danielle Wade).

mean girls
Pictured (LR): Mary Kate Morrissey (Janis Sarkisian) and the National Touring Company of mean girls
Credit: © 2019 Joan Marcus

Written by Tina Fey, the film’s original screenwriter, mean girls is a witty, sharp musical with a catchy score and an important message – when trying to belong, don’t lose what makes you special. It’s an undeniably powerful takeaway wrapped up in the guise of a “pink and fantastical” musical (to quote Danielle Wade) that everyone can definitely relate to in some way.

And isn’t that the purpose of theatre?


Tickets for mean girls are on sale now at official Wharton Center outlets: online at whartoncenter.com, at the Automobile Owners Insurance box office at Wharton Center or by calling 1-800-WHARTON.

Login with mean girls on Twitter at @meangirlsbwayon Instagram at @meangirlsbway and @changeisfetch, on Facebook at @MeanGirlsBway and meangirlsonbroadway.com.