Mean Girls: The Musical

The Play That Came to Teach Pittsburgh a Lesson on Sass and Sensitivity

November 12, 2019

It's October 3rd.


Well, not really. It's actually November 12th, but who could resist the temptation of quoting the iconic screenplay of Mean Girls? I mean, it's just so fetch! Maybe I'm losing you here. Allow me to rewind *cues cassette tape rewind.* Okay, now that we're back at the start, I can catch you up with my obsession. On Halloween of this year, (yes, Halloween) I dressed up as an early 2000s rendition of Britney Spears and went with some friends to go see Mean Girls: The Musical. Prior to it coming to Pittsburgh, I had no clue the musical had ever existed! This may be news to some of you as well. Don't worry, don't panic- the show was amazing.

Reigning across the Benedum stage from October 29-November 3, the production was a rollercoaster in the best way. The musical, which was beautifully co-written by the original screenplay writer- Tina Fey, and also co-produced by Paramount Pictures and Universal Theatrical Group, took its own creative liberties separate from the movie we all fell in love with in 2004. It doesn't hurt that with those producers, they had the liberty to go above and beyond. For starters, the actual stage was a feat in and of itself- designed by Scott Pask. All of the set pieces were placed on wheels (including the chairs) so they could roll in and out of the scene, where you'd see students skating in the classroom for a comical display of attendance. The backdrop wall- designed by Adam Young and Finn Ross- not only lifted to reveal more stage space and set pieces when necessary for the scenes, but it also served as a digital screen that splayed the background of whatever room we found ourselves in. It had images of chairs for a classroom, lockers for the hallway, stalls for the bathroom and lunch tables for the cafeteria. We saw the desert lands of Africa as Cady described where she was from, contents of the Burn Book as the girls flipped through it, and Janis' friendship painting after winning an award during her art show. The use of our digital age was expertly woven into the set and the plot.

Another thing, Cady Heron, played by Danielle Wade- who gave us a corkier and more hilariously awkward spin on the role- was no longer the Narrator. She was instead replaced by Eric Huffman- Damian (the skinny version with even more sass than the original) and Mary Kate Morrissey as Janis Sarkisian (who was just as bitingly and lovably sarcastic). These two held the flow, progression and comedy of the entire show. The dynamic was explosive as they went back and forth with each other throughout, little moments like Damian giving Janis "the hand" as she attempted to interrupt his musical number and Janis questioning Damian on his mother calling him, "baby girl." It all added up to us feeling like we were a part of the reality playing out on stage.

Kudos to Kabir Bery who played Kevin Gnapoor. He became a point of expectant excitement for the audience members with his signature laugh. He took the iconic character and created his own legacy with it by adding his own pizazz, silliness and personality to it. The two Kevins- from the movie and the musical- are nothing alike but would have certainly been two peas in a pod if they were real- the troublemaking geniuses that you don't want to see together yet always do.

Most beloved, was Karen Smith- played by Jonalyn Saxer. She seemed to play a bigger part in the musical than she did in the movie. In retrospect though, she probably had the same "air time," but her impact was so much greater. Karen served as a delightful and blissfully innocent/naive reprieve from all the drama, anxiety, eye rolling and unstable mental health that is otherwise playing out in the lives of these fictional (yet very real and relatable) teenagers. Her "stupidity," played as a crowd favorite. She captured a child-likeness that instantly set everyone at ease. Her lines were far deviated from that of the movie, so no one knew what to expect when she opened her mouth; which also served as a nice break from the consistent game of expectation you subconsciously played trying to anticipate the lines of every other character from what they were in the movie. In one hilarious moment, she began singing a song and messed up, so she said she would start from the beginning. Because of her character's lack of IQ, as she started to walk off the stage, audience members assumed she maybe just gave up and was exiting so the show could go on. Instead, she did just as she said, and she returned from her exit stage left to begin her song anew, to which thousands of laughs hit the ceiling, adoration for the character soaring to the stage. 

While we were certainly able to laugh, there were plenty of moments for cringing- whether from the painfully stilted moments of teenage adolescence or the bite of undeniable cruelty that we are all capable of. Mean Girls: The Musical gave it all to us and truly taught a thing or two about the balance between playful sass and necessary sensitivity towards ourselves and others. We were given messages on cyber-bullying and its damaging effects towards an individual, group and even the dynamics of a whole student body. They discussed mental health, low self-esteem, identity misplacement, bullying, anxiety, clique mentality and other sinister, everyday issues that our kids and even we as adults are experiencing. That same magical stage that took us to the mall where we were delighted with an amazing safari themed musical number called, "Apex Predator," also gave us a flooded Instagram timeline full of rumors, hate messages, exposed nudes/clothing slip-ups, and other unbearable drama that has the lines between harmless and downright malicious blurred. 

We were led through two acts, 20 songs, endless laughs, spectacular sights and invaluable lessons within the span of 200 minutes. What we will all take home after sitting in those seats, is a reminder of how hard puberty is, how easy it is to look at another's grass and envy it, but how pertinent it is to be comfortable with yourself so that you may create an accepting and loving atmosphere to those around you. Hurt people, hurt people. Figure out your hurts so that you don't become a #MeanGirl, because that is so not fetch.