REVIEW: ‘Mean Girls’ Musical is Lite, but Fetch!

The cast of Mean Girls.

BY SANDY STAGGS
DRAMA CRITIC

The Plastics are burning the streets of Greenville this week causing mayhem, throwing shade, dictating fashion, and maybe even dodging buses. That’s right, Mean Girls fans, the Burn Book musical has arrived at the Peace Center. And it’s Fetch!

Casey Nicholaw (Aladdin, The Book of Mormon, The Prom, Something Rotten! Elf: The Musical) both directs and choreographs this absolutely stunning musical adaptation of the film with Lindsay Lohan, Tina Fey, and Rachel McAdams.

Admittedly, I had a flashback to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, and was mostly mesmerized by the scenic design (Scott Pask) and video design by Finn Ross and Adam Young and trying to see how it was constructed. And lo and behold, Ross designed that play set in video cube as well.

Floor to rafters and cascading on the sides, the array of digital screens forms a unified, seamless and endless display of animation, scenic backdrops and flashy sweeps into the next scene, as well as custom Burn Book and other actor specific visuals that are seemingly updated for every show depending on the cast changes. That is just a speculation on my part.

Amazingly, the only significant three-dimensional set piece was in the bedroom scene. Actors even rolled themselves off stage in unison, seated at tables and desks.

Fey makes a very wise cutting of her 2004 screenplay in this version, and fans won’t miss any of the antics (the students at North Shore High School acting as wild animals), gags or plot points (the “diet” bars) that made the film such a phenomenon.

The cast is spot-on with a very magnanimous English Bernhardt as Cady, the new girl who just arrived in Illinois from Kenya and eschews homeschooling for the first time.

The wacky openly gay duo of Janis and Damian act as our narrators (“A Cautionary Tale”) and are played here by the dynamite team of (at this performance Sarah Crane) Mary Kate Morrissey and Eric Huffman, who gives one the show’s finest dance moments in “Stop” at the top of act two.

They befriend Cady and encourage her to join The Plasticks (a trio of entitled, mean-ass popular girls) and report back so Janis can exact revenge and destroy them.

A perfectly bitchy Nadina Hassan embodies the villain Regina George with panache and attitude, and as her cohorts/underlings, both Jasmine Rogers as the insecure Gretchen Wieners (“What’s Wrong With Me?”) and Morgan Ashley Bryant as the ditsy Karen Smith (“Sexy”) shine brightly in this production.

A charming Adante Carter is delightfully dashing as the young man in the love triangle, Aaron, and Lawrence E. Street handily portrays the principal’s role Mr. Duvall (Tim Meadows in the film).

But the coolest casting aspects of Mean Girls are the Tina Fey and Amy Poehler lookalikes in the pivotal roles of math teacher Mrs. Norbury and Regina’s “bad mom,” both played by the impeccable April Josephine (in addition to Cady’s mother).

The music by Fey’s husband Jeff Richmond and lyrics by Nell Benjamin (Legally Blonde) are genre-friendly and vast in scope from the emotional “Fearless” to hip hop. But Fey’s book more than carries the proceedings in this light tale of reckless abandonment of morals that punches a more ambitious message about female solidarity than the film actually.

And in a strike of marketing genius, you can purchase your own Burn Book in the lobby! That is so FETCH!

Mean Girls continues through Sunday, May 29 at the Peace Center, 300 S. Main Street in Greenville. For tickets, visit peacecenter.org or call (864) 467-3000.

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