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Broadway Review: “Mean Girls” Pleases at The August Wilson Theatre (Open Run)

Broadway Review: “Mean Girls” Pleases at The August Wilson Theatre (Open Run)
Book by Tina Fey
Music by Jeff Richmond
Lyrics by Nell Benjamin
Directed and Choreographed by Casey Nicholaw
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

The new Broadway musical “Mean Girls,” based on the 2004 hit movie, is sure to secure a home on the Great White Way for some time to come, as it tickles the fancy of a new generation of young woman who might be liberated by the recent movements of empowerment and anti-bullying. It is certainly a crowd pleaser and whether you are a fan of the movie, you will enjoy the flashy, energetic production which aims to please form start to finish. The book by Tina Fey remains close to the screenplay, repeating some of the same popular quips and smart wit while also adding new material to update and take full advantage of current social and political events.

Cady (a convincing Erika Henningsen) is the newcomer at North Shore High moving to Chicago after being isolated and home schooled by her parents in Kenya. Attempting to fit in she is quickly taken under the wings of artsy outsiders Damian (a flamboyantly confident Grey Henson) who is “too gay to exist,” and Goth inspired Janis (a brooding, angst ridden, Barrett Wilbert Weed). Soon enough Cady infiltrates the Mean Girls clique led by the unscrupulous Regina (played with a dominating flair by Taylor Louderman), and unwavering followers Gretchen (a devout, lonely and conflicted Ashley Park) and Karen (an endearingly dumb Kate Rockwell). What conflicts ensue are entertaining, yet predictable, but perpetuate the hostility and discord that has plagued high school society and beyond. The illustrious Kerry Butler is remarkable, bringing her versatility to three roles, but stealing every scene as the sumptuous, “wannabe teenager” Mrs. George.

Lyrics by Nell Benjamin support the situations and help develop characters. Jeff Richmond supplies a variety of musical styles that gives director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw enough punch, to keep the overzealous cast on their toes in creative, albeit sometimes frantic, dance numbers, (sometimes repetitive) or poignant ballads. Costume design by Gregg Barnes is vibrant, fashionable and appropriate, polishing another facet of each character’s personality and mood. Finn Ross and Adam Young have managed to take video design to a new level, complimenting Scott Pask’s scenery with sharp, vivid and ultra-dimensional realistic images that unfold to create seamless scene change.

This show certainly has lasting power and tourist appeal, but also suffers from some familiar musical comedy pitfalls. Although the cast is brilliant and vocally astounding the depth of their characters sometimes suffer from stereotype and incessant jokes that jeopardize authenticity. It is too long and loses its potency with musical numbers that sometimes provide little or no payoff and do not move the plot forward. What it is lacking in profundity is offset by the sheer entertainment factor the creative team has brought to the stage.

MEAN GIRLS

The cast of “Mean Girls” is led by Erika Henningsen, Taylor Louderman, Ashley Parks, Kate Rockwell, Barrett Wilbert Weed, Grey Henson, Kerry Butler, Kyle Selig, Cheech Manohar, and Rick Younger. The cast also includes Stephanie Lynn Bissonnette, Tee Boyich, Collins Conley, Ben Cook, DeMarius R. Copes, Kevin Csolak, Devon Hadsell, Curtis Holland, Myles McHale, Chris Medlin, Brittany Nicholas, Becca Petersen, Nikhil Saboo, Jonalyn Saxer, Brendon Stimson, Riza Takahashi, Kamille Upshaw, Zurin Villanueva, Gianna Yanelli, and Iain Young.

The creative team includes Scott Pask (Set Design), Gregg Barnes (Costume Design), Kenneth Posner (Lighting Design), Brian Ronan (Sound Design), Finn Ross & Adam Young (Video Design), Josh Marquette (Hair Design), Milagros Medina-Cerdeira (Make-Up Design), Mary-Mitchell Campbell (Music Director), John Clancy (Orchestrations), Glen Kelly (Dance and Incidental Music Arrangements), Mary-Mitchell Campbell, Jeff Richmond, and Natalie Tenenbaum (Vocal Arrangements), Howard Joines (Music Coordinator), and Telsey + Co / Bethany Knox, CSA (Casting). Production photos by Joan Marcus.

Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.com, by calling (877) 250-2929, and in-person at the August Wilson Theatre Box Office (245 West 52nd Street; Monday – Saturday: 10am - 8pm). Information on performance schedule, lottery, and rush ticket policies can be found at www.MeanGirlsOnBroadway.com/. Running time is 2 hours 30 minutes, with one intermission.

Photo: (L-R): Kyle Selig (Aaron Samuels) and Erika Henningsen (Cady Heron). Credit: Joan Marcus.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Tuesday, April 17, 2018