Mean Girls is an exercise in Broadway maximalism.
From the lavish set design, to the size of the chorus, to the number of songs packed into the show, to the intricacy of the group numbers, to the sheer number of unique costumes that only appear for a single song—everything about the Broadway Across Canada production of Mean Girls (the musical) is over the top. Trays! Tearaways! Tap dancing! It’s a sugar-crazed toddler in tiny Juicy Couture screaming into a flip phone for more desserts, and then being delivered a whole wedding cake.
Which is to say: it’s a delightful spectacle. The story remains almost unchanged from the 2004 movie it’s adapted from—itself a loose adaptation of the parenting book, Queen Bees and Wannabes—in following Cady Heron (Natalie Shaw) through her first experience at an American high school. The popular Plastics ask Cady to sit with them at lunch, and Cady’s new art-freak friends Janis (Alexys Morera) and Damian (Ethan Jih-Cook) persuade her to infiltrate the clique for the lolz.
As a piece of media that captures two specific points in time—the 2004 original and the 2017 musical—Mean Girls in 2024 feels like a period piece. Janis and Damian are promoted to narrators, relaying the show’s events to an incoming class of freshmen, along with some added commentary. Some elements are updated for the new time frame, too: social media gets poured into the toxic high school mix, and there’s a throwaway joke about a Game of Thrones character. But those jokes haven’t been updated to include TikTok or, uh, a show that people actually liked the finale of. The script hews too close to the original film’s plot, with only minor expansions and revisions, when there was room to look more critically at how teens’ lives are different now (or were in 2017) compared to the early noughties.
A whole plot point about tricking queen bee Regina (a delightfully arch Maya Petropoulos) into gaining weight remains in the show, even as the casting has a more diverse range of body types than the movie’s ultra-thin Hollywood glam. It’s also entirely played for laughs: the joke is not that Regina is so delusional that she thinks gaining weight will lead to everyone making fun of her, but that the performer wears comical pads and—spoiler—rips her skirt in public. Janis and Damian, as narrators, are in the perfect position to punch a hole in this fat-shaming—but they don’t. When the show directly speaks to the crowd to tell people (teens) not to be mean on social media, it feels like a missed opportunity not to acknowledge that a joke that was questionably funny in 2004 probably shouldn’t be being repeated now.
That aside, let’s focus on the many positives. Gretchen (Kristen Amanda Smith) has some delightful repeated physical comedy as a bird, emphasizing both the core conceit of “teens as animals” and her own mental instability. Regina’s mom (Kristen Seggio) has a short solo that helps humanize her, while love interest Aaron Samuels (Joseph Torres) also sees some actual character development and conflict. And Karen (Maryrose Brendel) steals every scene she’s in, playing a head-empty hot girl with an affectingly sweet earnestness and delivering one of the most pivotal monologues.
While there were a few first-night tech issues with spotlights and mics, overall it was a giddy spectacle. Sure, you could go see Mean Girls (2024), the movie version of the musical that’s coincidentally in cinemas now—but isn’t live theatre just so fetch?
When: January 24 to January 28, various times
Where: Queen Elizabeth Theatre
Admission: From $136.85, available here