WHAT “Mean Girls”
WHERE August Wilson Theatre, 245 W. 52nd St.
INFO From $79, 877-250-2929, ticketmaster.com
BOTTOM LINE Not everything clicks in the clique-centric musical.
There’s hardly a need for a “Burn Book” in this smartphone age of Instagram and Twitter.
But don’t freak, “Mean Girls” fans. The vicious scrapbook so much at the center of the 2004 film remains front and center of the Broadway version that opened Sunday at the August Wilson Theatre.
In adapting her screenplay for the stage, Tina Fey has taken great pains to hold on to everything that made the movie such a cult favorite, from that infamous compilation of nasty comments to the well-known quotes spoken by half the audience along with the actors. Yes, we wear pink on Wednesdays, and “fetch” lives.
Still, something doesn’t quite click in the clique-centric halls of North Shore High School, where newbie Cady Heron (Erika Henningsen, vaguely resembling the film’s Lindsay Lohan) tries to find her place after being home schooled in Africa by her researcher parents.
Despite vibrant performances from a uniformly talented cast, the show drags, especially in the first act when I found myself eyeing my watch like a kid dying for the bell to ring. And the music, by Fey’s husband, Jeff Richmond, is repetitive and not particularly memorable.
Director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw wrings everything he can from his cast, most notably from Barrett Wilbert Weed and Grey Henson, as the outcasts who take Cady under their wing. Taylor Louderman’s Regina George, leader of the alpha pack known as The Plastics, shrewdly calculates every move as the cruel queen bee. And her partners in crime, Ashley Park as the eager-to-please Gretchen and Kate Rockwell as the dim Karen, are fun to watch as they flounce about in Gregg Barnes’ over-the-top costumes.
Wisely, Fey has updated the story, letting social media take over with a barrage of tweets and Instagram posts periodically popping up on Scott Pask’s innovative set — a curved screen that allows slick video projections to move us from the plains of Africa (allowing for a brief homage to “The Lion King”) to North Shore High to Regina’s pretty-in-pink bedroom. And Fey being Fey, she couldn’t resist getting in one reference to the current occupant of the White House, which needless to say drew hoots from the audience.
Clearly, there is a market for this show. If your kids are too old for “Frozen,” they’ll eat up “Mean Girls,” as will people who revere the movie. And the show will live long and prosper. Once the rights are released, every high school drama department in the country will be clamoring to get it onstage.