Mean Girls at the August Wilson Theatre
Review by Mo Brady
Attention North Shore High School students: There’s no “sophomore slump” happening at Mean Girls. On the contrary, the current cast is crushing the material nightly at Broadway’s August Wilson Theatre. One of the reasons I wanted to revisit Mean Girls was to see it out of the context of the rest of the Broadway season in which it opened. Whether you’re an industry professional or a Broadway superfan, it’s difficult to see shows out of the context of “Awards Season,” simply appreciating them on their own.
There’s always been much to appreciate in Mean Girls. Of course, Tina Fey’s winning book is filled with fun, following the well-loved plot of the film without being married to it. Having spent the last season and a half with songs like “Apex Predator” and “I’d Rather Be Me” in the theatrical ether, Nell Benjamin’s lyrics and Jeff Richmond’s music offers a pleasing pop score (even at moments when it doesn’t feel as contemporary or youthful as the actors performing it).
Original cast members like Devon Hadsell and Curtis Holland are providing solid performances alongside new additions such as Morgan Harrison and Kevin Cosculluela. Major props to dance captain Brendon Stimson, who has kept the company looking just as clean and sharp as when I first saw the production in previews.
Recent Pace University graduate Christine Shepard shines as ensemble character Rachel Hamilton. Picking up the mantle from original cast member Kamille Upshaw, Shepard applies an ease of movement even while executing sharp and specific choreography. In addition, she brings a grounded but effective humor to Rachel Hamilton’s standout moments (including the handing over of a vodka-filled inhaler).
The company I saw also included three swings: Maria Briggs, Susie Carroll and Daniel Switzer, who are remarkably confident performers in the show’s ensemble. As a member of four different Broadway companies last season, Briggs is integrated perfectly into the student body of North Shore. And Carroll, who I happened to see in The Prom less than five months ago, has brought her aptitude of Casey Nicholaw’s buoyant choreography four blocks north to 52nd Street.
Erika Henningsen is truly a national treasure. As Cady Heron, she strikes a perfect balance or heart and humor that keeps us on her side throughout the proceedings. Her voice sails through the score confidently. With this being only her second Main Stem outing (her first being a short stint as Fantine in Les Miserables), it’s exciting to think about what roles she will take on next. Alongside the remarkable Taylor Louderman, still captivating in her final weeks as Regina George, the two lead the plot along swiftly, with nuance and clarity.
In its opening season, Mean Girls stood out as clever, sharp-witted fun. A year later, the show continues to land with audiences thanks to its superlative cast and their “fearless” performances.