Laura and Samara spend their days as non-profit unicorns and fill every spare minute exploring the world of musical theatre as BFFs (that’s Broadway Friends Forever). Follow @bffs613 on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Get in losers, we’re going to see the musical Mean Girls. The 12-time Tony-nominated show ran on Broadway from 2018 to 2020 and announced its North American Tour in 2021. An adaptation of the 2004 movie (we aren’t the only ones watching it on repeat every October 3, right?) featuring a book by original screenwriter Tina Fey, the show opened in Ottawa to a sea of pink-attired audience members on Tuesday night. It’s running until October 23 at the National Arts Centre.
Following a similar plot to its movie namesake, this cautionary tale is presented to the audience by the greatest people you’ll ever meet, Janis (Lindsay Heather Pearce) and Damian (Eric Huffman). When Cady (English Bernhardt) moves from her homeschooled life in Kenya to North Shore High School in Chicago, all she wants is to fit in. Janis and Damian give her the grand tour and become her first set of friends. When Cady suddenly gets the opportunity to eat lunch with the rulers of the school, The Plastics, her friends encourage her to get an inside look at the world of the popular crowd. After getting a peek behind the curtain, the plot for revenge on Queen Bee Regina George (Nadina Hassan) begins to unfold, and Cady finds herself rising to the top of the social ladder, with a fall from grace looming on the horizon.
Though it has the strong foundations that helped make the original movie such a hit, the stage version still has some room to grow. The pacing and length of the show feel drawn out, and some areas feel less necessary and could be trimmed and tightened up. Some moments come across as a bit messy and feel like they could use some smoothing out. There are a good handful of powerful, show-stopping songs (Apex Predator, Stupid with Love, Someone Gets Hurt, World Burn, I’d Rather be Me), but unfortunately, the rest of the songs fall flat, with less engaging lyrics and music and little impact on moving the plot forward.
Regardless of the content not being quite at 100%, the casting knocks it out of the park. Nadina Hassan, playing Regina with multiple heavy ballad songs, had her amazing vocals on display to their fullest. The rest of The Plastics are played by Jasmine Rogers as Gretchen and Morgan Ashley Bryant as Karen, each nailing their solo performances throughout the show while bringing continued humour and levity to their roles. (You can read our interview with Morgan Ashley Bryant to learn more about the behind-the-scenes of the touring production.) Lindsay Heather Pearce as Janis probably gets some of the best songs in the show. Her vocals are off the charts, and her chemistry and rapport with Eric Huffman as Damian leads through a lot of the show. Huffman not only flawlessly delivers his multiple solos, but has major tap dance numbers and consistently lands his one-liners, living up to the character’s movie origins. North Shore’s Kevin G, played by Kabir Bery, provides the perfect amount of levity and proves that he truly is multi-talented: as the mathlete champion, he also has major dancing and vocal chops to carry the audience through some of the smaller transitional songs in the show. And, of course, we can’t forget the tour’s Cady Heron, English Barnhardt, who fully embodies the character as she moves through multiple (and pretty different) stages of self-discovery. She brings the energy you know and love from the original movie while still having her own interpretation of the character.
If you haven’t seen the movie, this may be a show to skip this season. But if you are a big Mean Girls fan, you are bound to enjoy the iconic moments and laugh at your favourite shout-outs to movie lines along with some new zingers (we’re looking at you, Karen Smith).
With the Ottawa run only on stage until Sunday, there are just a few more chances to sit with us and get your Mean Girls fix live and on stage.
Mean Girls runs from October 18–23 at the National Arts Centre. Evening performances are at 8pm, except Sunday at 7:30pm. Matinees are on Saturday at 2pm and Sunday at 1pm. The show runs for two and a half hours with an intermission.