Hang with me, I’ll get there.
The basics: the play is the adaptation of Tina Fey’s 2004 movie, which is an adaptation of the self-help book Queen Bees and Wannabees by Rosalind Wiseman. The musical hews closely to the film; Fey wrote the book and kept many of the same funny – and biting lines – from the screenplay. There may be some things written below that might be considered spoilers, but I think given that the movie came out a decade and a half ago, I think the statute of limitations has passed.
If you haven’t seen the movie, the story isn’t a surprise: New girl moves to town as a high school junior, gets befriended by the popular group, loses herself in the process of becoming the queen bee while ruining the lives of friend and foe alike.
Also like the movie, the ensemble nature of the cast is really what makes the show work at a high level. The standouts are Eric Huffman and Mary Kate Morrissey who play Damian and Janis – the narrators-turned-Dr. Frankensteins of the social experiment the show chronicles, and Jonalyn Saxer, who really nails the essence of The Plastics’ sidekick Karen Smith, “The dumbest person you’ll ever meet.”
Tina Fey’s words and characters far outpace the music for the first half of the show, which is what you’d hope for in a book written by someone as talented as Fey. Post-intermission, Nell Benjamin’s lyrics and Jeff Richmond’s music catch up with the quality of the banter.
However, the show is more than just 2 ½ hours of entertainment: There was the key lesson of forgiveness. See, I told you I’d get there.
As we approach the Day of Atonement, the show has its moment of atonement where the protagonist, new-girl Cady Heron (played by Danielle Wade, who nails the transition throughout the show from awkward to all-star) apologizes to Regina George, the head of The Plastics played by Mariah Rose Faith (in a scene that was revived for the musical after getting cut from the movie – and it was better on stage than on YouTube). It’s not just about Cady apologizing because it’s the right thing to do (because it is), but also because she did wrong.
I’m not a subscriber that the Internet theory that Cady is actually the Mean Girl and Regina is the victim. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Both can be (and are) awful people. But as we know from Yom Kippur, the heartfelt apology and acknowledgment of misdeeds go a long way.
Granted, outside of Broadway, I’m not sure it makes up for pushing someone in front of a bus.