by Marialena Rago
No matter who you are, making your Broadway debut is always exciting. Working with Tina Fey on the new musical Mean Girls “couldn’t be a more perfect opportunity” says Gianna Yanelli who is doing just that this spring as a member of the ensemble and an understudy for the role of Janice. “ I mean, it's just a dream come true,” she says.
After hearing about an open call she auditioned, got another appointment, and then had five more call backs before landing the gig. “I immediately cried and then I called my mom.”
Not only is Gianna excited to be in the show, she is excited about who she gets to work with. As a native of the Philadelphia area, Gianna has a soft spot for Tina Fey, who also grew up around Philly. Two both went to Upper Darby Summer Stage, one of the nation's oldest and most successful youth theater programs, and during the opening night of Mean Girls in D.C, Gianna and Fey sang the summer stage theme song together.
But it isn’t the awards or even the connection to home that Gianna loves most about Fey, it’s her work ethic. “She is there from ten to six every day. Constantly working, perfecting it, making it her own and it is just so inspirational to me because, here is Tina Fey, this incredibly well known person and writer in our industry, and she is so humble and so generous and at the same time one of the hardest individuals on our team. So immediately, regardless of the other things I loved about her, I loved her even more.”
Working with someone you admire is always a plus to living your dream, but that dream is still very hard work. With this being Gianna’s first Broadway show, she had to learn how the process works and there were some surprises. “I have never gone through something like this before. I knew it was going to be difficult, don't get me wrong, but I didn’t realize how mentally and physically exhausting it is.”
In making a new musical you have to have previews and rehearsals. During those rehearsals you have notes that the creative team gives the cast. It can be a dance note, a song note, or a whole staging note from the director. “We will have rehearsal from 12pm till 5pm doing all of these changes that have to be implemented to the show that night. I didn’t realize how intense it was. It is just a completely different process than a show that has been made already because you are part of the process.”
And part of the process is changing up how you live your life. Gianna says that she had to really learn how to take care of her body since it is a part of that process and needs to be on it’s A-game everyday. Her steps are eating healthy, drinking lots of water, sleeping when she can and not drinking alcohol. But it's worth it.
Mean Girls is a highly anticipated show that is set to open this April. Gianna says that the lines you loved from the 2004 movie are still in there but it implements todays culture in it too. But the most important part of the show is its message which is to be kind and open-minded about others. “And it isn’t just for high schoolers,” she says, “it’s for us.”
Now that she has her debut under her belt, Gianna’s words for those who dream of being on the Great White Way are this: "Even though it feels like it’s not going to happen, keep pushing through because eventually you’ll come to find the happiness you were supposed to have through struggle. I think the most important thing is to keep dreaming but know that it is hard work and with hard work comes success. Its not going to be handed to you and always, always be grateful for what you have because every opportunity that comes into your life opens the door for others.”