In the opening number of the Tony-nominated Mean Girls, lead character, high school outsider and brilliant social commentator Damien asks the existential question, "How far would you go to be popular and hot?"
It's a fair question. The good news is, if you live in the greater Spokane region, you won't have to go far, just to the First Interstate Center for the Performing Arts where the show opens on Tuesday. While it's the first time in the Inland Northwest for Mean Girls, you may have heard about its splashy Broadway debut back in 2018, and its 12 Tony nominations, including Best Musical, Best Actress and Best Book by Tina Fey. The original Broadway cast also had an extensive tour of appearances on morning shows and various other TV spots, so if you're inclined, you can still catch plenty of snippets and performances of some of the bigger numbers online (highly recommended).
Mean Girls is based on the beloved 2004 film of the same name, also written by Tina Fey. It stars Lindsey Lohan and Rachel McAdams, and features so many quotables lines and iconic moments that a viewing can sometimes feel like opening a time capsule back to the mid-aughts and all their camisole-filled glory.
Still, the plot for both the film and the musical is evergreen; Cady (pronounced "Katie") Heron, a newcomer to high school, is enchanted by the allure of the popular clique called The Plastics, and its leader, Regina George. Cady has to make tough decisions about being nice and having true friends, or gaining popularity and admiration through vindictive means. It's a tale as old as time, or at least, the construct of high school.
No discussion of Mean Girls would be complete without a nod to Queen Bees & Wannabees, the 2002 self-help and parenting book by Rosalind Wiseman that inspired Fey to write the original film. It discusses the ins and out of teen-girl dynamics. If you aren't currently, or have never been, a teen girl, the inner workings of "girl world" can be complicated. While some of the themes feel exaggerated for the sake of the film and the musical, both are still chock-full of relatable moments and gems. There's a strong predator/prey metaphor that runs through the musical in a far more obvious way than the film, but last time I checked, musical theater isn't supposed to be subtle, so it works.
And though I'm writing to you from the perspective of someone who is the exact target demographic for this musical (a fan of the movie, musical theater enjoyer, and who is without significant biases against the film-to-stage pipeline although I kinda get why some people have them), I'm not the only person who will enjoy this musical. It takes the plot, characters, humor, and general fetch-ness of the film and ratchets up the energy, introduces catchy and emotionally driven songs, and delivers dazzling choreography and pink-tinged sets.
If this all sounds appealing, then I have good news: As of our publishing date, tickets are still on sale. Plus, the soundtrack is also available through the Spokane County Library District, as well as on multiple streaming platforms, so you can check out the music in advance and be in the know like all the cool people. The limit does not exist for how catchy some of the songs are.
In the meantime, for those who are as stoked as I am that this show is coming to town, or for those who need even more convincing, I'm offering up my personal list of songs and film elements that I'm most excited to see onstage. If anyone needs me before the show opens, I'll just be over here, going over this list and selecting my best pink outfit.
Janice & Damian — Cady's first friends at her new school. The two of them set the tone for the musical much like they set the tone for Cady's early days of high school.
"Apex Predator" (Act I) — Janice warning Cady about Regina's duplicity and power, over multiple crescendos and slow-motion choreography? And with jungle cat metaphors in every verse, and the rhyming of "my new exotic pet" with "reproductive threat"? Yes, please.
"Someone Gets Hurt" (Act I) — Under the guise of garnering sympathy for Cady, Regina seduces the boy that they both happen to like, with powerhouse vocal pyrotechnics and slow gyrations. This is the future Gretchen Wieners saw coming when she warned Cady, "Ex-boyfriends are off-limits to friends. That's just, like, the rules of feminism."
"World Burn" (Act II) — Remember that scene in the film where the girls go wild and the fire alarm goes off, and Regina George stands still on a stage and just...watches? Now, picture that, but with passionate, full-diaphragm singing and orchestral rumbles.
"I See Stars" (Act II) — The final number. Without giving too much away, it's the kind of triumphant, satisfying song that will probably give you goosebumps and maybe even those sneaky tears that you don't expect, but surprise — there they are, coming at you like a bus. It's that good. ♦
Mean Girls • Tue-Wed, Nov. 23-24 at 7:30 pm; Fri-Sat, Nov. 26-27 at 2 pm & 7:30 pm; Sun, Nov. 28 at 1 pm & 6:30 pm • $39-$100 • First Interstate Center for the Arts • 334 W. Spokane Falls Blvd • broadwayspokane.com • 800-438-9705