There is so much energy expended by the cast of “Mean Girls,” from leads to chorus members, that all must be wiped out by the end of every performance, two on matinee days. One can be pleasantly exhausted just watching it, and also dazzled by the panorama of projections, sliding desks and chairs, flashy lighting and other visual elements that go into this musical version of the film on which this musical is based. Scenery is by Scott Pask, lighting by Kenneth Posner, sound by Brian Ronan, video design by Finn Ross & Adam Young, costume design by Gregg Barnes, with music direction by Mary-Mitchell Campbell.
The plot is as dippy and predicable as ever, although Tina Fey’s book includes lots of laugh lines, and Jeff Richmond’s music and Nell Benjamin’s lyrics provide the appealing cast members with opportunity to score big in the singing department. Casey Nicholaw’s high-speed direction and rapid-fire choreography avoid lulls.
Life in high school with nastiness and rivalries is updated to the age of social media. The charismatic Erica Henningsen as Cady Heron, first shown during her life in Africa, is the new girl in the bustling fictional high school. She is shunned and manipulated, but ultimately learns the ropes and tries to emulate the main rival, Taylor Louderman as the sexy, preening and obnoxious Regina, who lords over a group of gals. Louderman is a knockout in the role, although, looking a bit old for high school, she seems more in the category of a Trump trollop. Of course, she gets what’s coming to her before all turns out happily.
The musical is rife with show-stealing thievery. At the outset we meet Grey Henson as Damian Hubbard, and he entertainingly runs rampant with his role. He is thoroughly amusing with his snappy dialogue, gay movements and hilarious singing. Another scene-stealer is Ashley Park as Gretchen Wieners, whose big number “What’s Wrong With Me?” characterizes her inferiority complex.
Others who make up the cast include the excellent Kate Rockwell, Barrett Wilbert Weed, Kerry Butler, Kyle Selig, Cheech Manohar and Rick Younger. They all have their highlighted moments, which add to the overall strength of the production.
There is a specific audience for “Mean Girls,” starting with those who loved the movie and want to see how it turns out adapted into a musical. Others may be current high-schoolers who may recognize the types. There are Tina Fey fans. But for many the milieu will hardly be inviting, although even a skeptic glad to be far removed from the doings depicted, can admire the cast and the staging alive with Broadway expertise. At the August Wilson Theatre, 245 West 52nd Street. Phone: 877-250-2929. Reviewed April 13, 2018.