Arts Angle Edge Journalist
‘Mean Girls’ reveals the insecurities behind that high school ‘girl drama’
By Michelle Quan | Arts Angle Vantage Reporter
duPont Manual High School, Class of 2023
High school cliques — we know all about them. The brattiness of it all. The fights. The drama. But most of all: the insecurities.
“Mean Girls,” the musical, based on Tina Fey’s homonymous 2004 classic film, follows new girl Cady Heron (Danielle Wade) trying to “find where she belongs.” That something would prove to be more animalistic than Cady’s life back in Kenya. When The Plastics, a trio including Regina George (Nadina Hassan), Gretchen Weiners (Megan Masako Haley) and Karen Smith (Jonalyn Saxer), recruit Cady, the “yassification” of the once-nerdy Cady into a “Mean Girl” commences.
Megan Masako Haley (Gretchen Wieners), Nadina Hassan (Regina George), Jonalyn Saxer (Karen Smith), and Danielle Wade (Cady Heron) and the national touring company of "Mean Girls." Photo by Jenny Anderson. Courtesy PNC Broadway in Louisville.
Wade’s slips of awkward tics throughout her uber-confident performance transformed Cady into a realistic character most teenagers can relate to. But behind the pink miniskirts and heels, there’s something a little more drop-dead than gorgeous in North Shore High School. The girls lose themselves amid the passive-aggressive fights. It's a battle the likes of a savanna hunt, an obvious metaphor that was made through the performance’s incredible use of visual technology for enchanting scene switches during the show’s run from March 23 through 27 at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts.
The star of the show had to be understudy DeShawn Bowens with his portrayal of the “too gay to function” Damian. It’s difficult to imagine anyone else as Damian when Bowens gave his all tap-dancing along to the lunch tray beats of the performance. While slightly less sarcastic than the movie's character of Damian, the musical’s Damian takes the spot for most entertaining.
Gretchen, on the other hand, surprisingly takes the spot for most sympathetic when she asks herself, and indirectly asks Regina, how she can possibly fix herself in the heart-wrenching musical number “What’s Wrong with Me?” Haley projects Gretchen’s simultaneous admiration and competition with Regina through every voice inflection. I was not at all expecting such growth in Gretchen’s self-awareness and complexity from the movie’s cookie-cutter rich and pretty persona.
“‘Cause when you have less, you have more to lose,” Cady sings to Aaron Samuels (Adante Carter) in “More Is Better”.
Danielle Wade (Cady Heron) and Adante Carter (Aaron Samuels) in the national touring company of "Mean Girls." Photo by Joan Marcus. Courtesy PNC Broadway in Louisville.
This lyric alone among others by Nell Benjamin and set to music by Jeff Richmond exemplifies that mean girls oftentimes aren’t really mean girls. Women already struggle with power in this world; high school’s rigid social structure pits girls against each other to “have more.” Despite Hassan’s perfect amount of Regina-esque sass as she rose in the air and stood above everyone, Regina, too, has her own insecurities with beauty and power when she is dethroned by Cady’s and Janis’ plan. In the end, enemies Regina and Janis (Mary Kate Morrissey) have something in common: being mean as a defense mechanism in the fight of femininity.
The vibrant sets. The unique mix of choreography by Casey Nicholaw, who also directs the show. The sorrowful singing. Topped off with sass and sparkles. The opening night performance of the musical “Mean Girls” gave just the right twist needed to underscore high schoolers’ insecurities and struggles with self-worth that arise from expectations of femininity, while also keeping the iconic lines that made “Mean Girls” the movie so memorable. It all made the performance definitely “fetch.”
Michelle Quan is a junior at DuPont Manual High School, where they are the Social Media Director of Manual RedEye.