At the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, the musical based on the iconic Paramount Pictures movie is a pleasure to behold for fans while opening doors for tweens, teens, and their parents.
By John Lavitt
Costa Mesa, California (The Hollywood Times) 03/13/23 – Sometimes blunt is needed for a great review or a terrible review. Rather than beat around the bush, you must get to the point and express yourself, as Madonna might have told the girls in this musical. To be perfectly blunt, the Mean Girls national tour is fantastic and fun for tweens, teens, and their parents. Moreover, fans of the original iconic movie will enjoy the reenvisioning of the classic storyline with new visual highlights and enjoyable songs.
With a book by Tina Fey, who wrote the screenplay for the film, music by Jeff Richmond, and lyrics by Nell Benjamin, the musical is in more than capable hands. Without question, the musical lives up to the original, blossoming beyond a legendary shadow. The most rewarding success comes from the work of director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw, scenic designer Scott Pask, and video designers Finn Ross & Adam Young.
The switching of the scenes in the musical is a dynamic mixture of furniture on wheels, an incredibly active and fluid company, and incentive video transitions. For example, when the mean girls go to the mall, the mall is so well-represented with so little. Balancing video design with a few well-placed set pieces creates the feeling of an entire mall onstage. The scenic and video designers repeatedly work together to help the director create wonderful and unexpected moments.
From an acting and singing perspective, the show overflows with talent. As Cady Heron – the part made famous by Lindsay Lohan in the film – English Bernhardt overflows with energy and positive vibes. In the beginning, she so wants to be the good girl and the good friend that her eventual transformation is more disappointing character-wise. Indeed, her journey from the overachieving child of academics on an African sojourn to a self-glorifying party girl willing to do anything to get the cute boy is entirely convincing.
As her outcast friends from day one at the new school, Eric Huffman and Lindsay Heather Pearce are excellent as Damian Hubbard and Janis Sarkisian, respectively. With what can only be described as fabulous gay energy, Damian Hubbard is the show’s beating heart. In several musical numbers, he leads the way with an energy that defies classification. Providing comic relief combined with a conscience, he is a true asset. Moreover, as the artistic rebel, Lindsey Heather Pearce is reminiscent of a thousand and one alienated girls. In every school, there is a creative soul whose vision is never fully understood or appreciated. She fulfills this role.
As the mean girls known as the plastics, Nadina Hassan, Mary Beth Donahoe, and Morgan Ashley Bryant each bring to life their specific roles. Beautiful and devious as Regina George, Nadina Hassan is the Napoleon of the group, leading the plastics as they conquer the school. As Gretchen Wieners, the gossip with the golden heart, Mary Beth Donahoe offers a gleeful desperation. She desperately wants to be loved for her true self -whatever that might be – that she will do anything to gain acceptance from Regina’s Alpha Plastic. Finally, as the dimwitted Karen Smith, Morgan Ashley Bryant projects a humorous sexuality throughout the show. It is almost as if her character knows that her beauty drowns out her lack of awareness.
Finally, in the film, Tina Fey plays Ms. Norbury, the supportive Math teacher, Amy Poehler plays the mom of Regina George, and Ana Gasteyer plays the mom of Cady Heron. In the musical, Heather Ayers takes on the roles of the three great actresses and does a remarkable job. She feels different in each role, highlighting the comedy, music, meaning, and movement particular to the three characters.
Overall, Mean Girls at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa is a lot of fun for everyone involved. As a night out on the town, it provides laughter, visual treats, great music, and wonderful insight.
(Photos: Jenny Anderson and Mary Ellen Matthews)