MEAN GIRLS at the Kennedy Center

Society of mean girls. Photo courtesy of the production.

Tina Fey’s iconic 2004 film, mean girls, took center stage, and you won’t want to miss it. For three weeks at the Kennedy Center, you can watch the talented cast of mean girls The musical tells the story of a homeschooled jungle freak, Cady Heron, who tries to figure out high school while stuck between the infamous Plastics and non-clique-carpenters, Janis and Damian. . This show is filled with Fey’s entertaining comedy, struggles to fit in, vibrant dance breaks, and what it means to be yourself without apologizing for it.

This show has been cleverly rewritten to retain the main plot of the film, but in an updated form. Today, we see students at North Shore High confronting not just intimidating plastics, but another monster less prevalent in 2004: social media. The Burn Book is no longer the only thing that can keep rumors going. With everyone interacting online, it not only has the power to damage someone’s reputation with the click of a button, but it also makes people view others in a way that makes it seem like they are untouchable. Fueling the apex predator, Regina George, with even more gasoline so that everyone fears her and also aspires to be her. Next comes Cady Heron, who unbeknownst to her doesn’t realize the damage that both social media and Regina George can wreak.

mean girls
Eric Huffman (center) and company in mean girls. Photo courtesy of the production.

Our charming narrators, Janis Sarkisian and Damian Hubbard, give us new insight into the story – replacing Cady’s interior monologue from the film – through song and dance, with revamped vocabulary to understand the plot in more present terms. or “Gen Z”. Not only are Mary Kate Morrissey (Janis) and Eric Huffman (Damian) beyond talented, but they also gave these characters a new flair that I thoroughly enjoyed watching. They completely immerse themselves in their roles, making their reactions and choices very natural and authentic.

Generally, Janis has a very dirty and dark personality, with a mean personality. Morrissey’s Janis, on the other hand, was more contemporary but still had a young and fun side to it. She was more shameless herself, though there were some insecurities stemming from her previous friendship with Regina. I loved this take on the character and with a belt like that, I’d want to sing “Rather Be Me” all the time. Her performance was effortless and captivating to watch, even when she wasn’t in the spotlight. Mary Kate Morrissey is a phenomenal actress, especially in this role, and I strongly advise you to go see her because she just announced on Tik Tok that her last performance will be on May 29th of this year in Greenville, NC South.

Morrissey’s partner in crime, Eric Huffman, strikes the perfect balance between these two dynamic characters. With a bright and cheeky personality, Damian Hubbard is sure to put on a performance whenever he sees fit. Huffman was so much fun to watch and listen to throughout the show. Whether he’s with his portrait of George Michael and his tambourine, the show choir in the cafeteria or wearing his tap shoes in the art room, no opportunity is missed to impress the public with his talent and his charisma. I also have to shout out his fabulous opt-up at the start of “Where Do You Belong” because it was perfectly aligned with Damian’s true fashion.

mean girls
Mary Kate Morrissey (centre) and company in mean girls. Photo courtesy of the production.

Cue the scary music because we can’t forget the plastics. Starting with the queen bee herself, Nadina Hassan (Regina George). Being a new addition to the company, there may be quite a reputation to uphold, but I think Hassan has created a whole new level for any successor to the role to achieve. This new Regina wasn’t as terrifying in appearance as others might have portrayed the iconic role. Hassan carefully crafted this character in a different way from the others – being more reserved and sneaky at first, then striking at the optimal time. It builds up the all-powerful Regina George in an entirely new way, making her even scarier yet exciting to behold. The well-known song “World Burn” didn’t seem to pose a threat to Hassan as she completely blew the audience away with her thrilling and crazy performance.

mean girls
Nadina Hassan in mean girls. Photo courtesy of the production.

Next up is Megan Masako Haley (Gretchen Wieners), who brought us a beautiful but sad experience of an insecure high school student. Although Gretchen possesses such great things, she never really feels that she can be enough and constantly seeks reassurance from her boss, Regina George. Haley lets us inside this character’s mind with her dark yet charming ballad, “What’s Wrong With Me,” starting out feeling so small, but slowly building into itself as Regina George pulls out. Throughout the show, trust is earned in both Gretchen and Karen. Cue it mean girls veteran, Jonalyn Saxer (Karen Smith). Saxer is no stranger to this fantastic show, being both part of the original Broadway ensemble and also donning Karen shoes (which Karen says are hard to put on) from time to time, she is seasoned in all things. Bad girls. While this character isn’t particularly smart, she casually imparts some wisdom to Cady in a genuine way. Saxer does a great job of bringing this bubbly role to life, with his fun one-liners and clean vocal technique. We can all learn a thing or two from Karen, and Saxer’s clever timing will ensure you hear her advice.

mean girls
LR Jonalyn Saxer, Nadina Hassan, Megan Masako Haley and Danielle Wade in mean girls. Photo courtesy of the production.

Then there’s the collision of two worlds, represented by Danielle Wade’s Cady Heron. Wade is also quite familiar with the mean girls world, because not only has she been Cady Heron, but she has also been Janis and the three adult female roles on Broadway. There’s so much I could say about her performance because she was so fantastic. Wade played Cady’s unfamiliar and hesitant side so well, and when she had to show her new “plastic” side, she always showed the kind of struggle between what she thinks is right and wrong. It’s what sets Cady apart from her friend groups. Although all the time she only wants to fit in, she still never completely molds herself into one clique or another. Wade still got the authentic Cady through, though some times were murkier than others. This role is not easy either. Being on stage most of the time, singing a long and difficult score, while going through a whole range of personalities, Wade never wavered. From its first note in “It Roars” to its last in “I See Stars”, everything was clear, powerful and incredible. She impressively narrates the perils of high school through her character and nails it easily. Seeing Danielle Wade as Cady Heron is something I hope many will go to see, because I can assure you you will be blown away.

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LR Adante Carter and Danielle Wade in mean girls. Photo courtesy of the production.

This show, however, cannot be completed without the rest of the cast. Adante Carter (Aaron Samuels), April Josephine (Grown Women), Kabir Bery (Kevin G), Lawrence E. Street (Mr. Duvall) and the rest of the ensemble really bring you into the story and the world of high school . One of the biggest things that caught my attention was the choreography and how unchallenging it seemed, knowing full well that it is very difficult. Moreover, the whole personality of the school environment was built by these people and would not mean girls without them. From acting like animals, rolling around in desks, and all the other props and moves in between, it not only showed what a “well-oiled machine” this company is, but it really showed how these people are confident and close. Not only is the show different from many others, but you don’t always see the unity of the people in the show. I highly recommend seeing Mean Girls at the Kennedy Center or anywhere near you. Even if you’ve seen the show before, it might be worth coming back to see some new changes that have been thoughtfully added. While you can relive high school for a few hours, I promise it’s worth it.

mean girls
LR Megan Masako Haley, Nadina Hassan, Jonalyn Saxer and Danielle Wade in mean girls. Photo courtesy of the production.

Duration: 2h30 with a 15 minute intermission.

mean girls runs through April 24, 2022 at the Kennedy Center located at 2700 F St NW, Washington, DC 20566 at the Opera House. For tickets, click here.

Proof of vaccination and identification, as well as wearing a mask, are required to view this production.

About Marie A. Gingrich

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