One way or another

Despite its flaws, Mean Girls still pleases

A CAUTIONARY TALE–Though uneven, the national tour of Mean Girls still manages to please audiences, writes Olivia Brydon. Next up: My Fair Lady invades Gammage Dec. 7-12. For tickets, visit

Olivia Brydon, Columnist

“This is a cautionary tale about corruption and betrayal… and getting hit by a bus”.

When theatres went dark all across the country in March of 2020, the Mean Girls National Tour bus stopped in its tracks. The cast members were unable to make it to ASU Gammage, where they were scheduled to begin performances in April.

But after an agonizing wait, theatre lights are beginning to flicker back on and ASU Gammage had the pleasure of welcoming the Mean Girls National Tour to the stage on Nov. 2 for their very first performance back since the shutdown. Audiences clad in pink (myself included) flocked to the theatre to see the show, many bursting with anticipation that had been building up since April of last year.

But was it worth the wait?

With a book written by Tina Fey, music by Jeff Richmond, and lyrics by Neil Benjamin, Mean Girls is bursting with contagious energy and enthusiasm right from the opening number. The story follows Cady Heron (Danielle Wade) as she attempts to navigate American high-school after being homeschooled in Kenya for her childhood. She forms genuine friendships with Janis (Mary Kate Morrisey) and Damian (Eric Huffman), but is also quickly noticed by the school’s Queen Bee Regina George (Nadia Hassan). Regina “befriends” Cady and invites her into the trio of popular girls known as the Plastics, but their friendship quickly turns sour when Regina finds out that Cady is crushing on her ex-boyfriend Aaron Samuels (Adante Carter). Regina lives up to her spiteful reputation by kissing Aaron in front of Cady at a Halloween party, so Cady and her outcast friends, Janis and Damian, formulate a plan to embarrass Regina and destroy her popularity so that Cady can have Aaron for herself. However, once Cady gets a taste of being popular, her genuine friendships begin to deteriorate. As Cady becomes increasingly blinded by high school fame, teenage drama ensues as she is forced to navigate friendship, love–and AP Calculus. 

The musical itself is certainly entertaining, with many funny moments woven into scenes and some catchy musical numbers, but I would not label the script and score as theatrical masterpieces.

Many of the songs, although performed spectacularly by the cast, just didn’t have stand-out qualities urging me to turn on the soundtrack and listen to it again on the car ride home. The story has meaningful themes such as identity and the importance of not bringing other people down, but the show’s strange and tacky elements prevent the audience from being able to fully grasp and appreciate any important messages. For example, the second act opens with two cast members prancing around the stage dressed as transformers. 

In terms of the cast, Damian and Janis stand out the most. Mary Kate Morrisey plays the perfect “art freak”. She navigates the challenging vocal demands of Janis with ease and her belt is the perfect balance of strong and healthy. Eric Huffman is a true triple-threat, mastering the tap skills, vocals, and comedic timing necessary to pull off the character of Damian. Together, their chemistry is impeccable from start to finish and their duo is what I remember most from my experience at the show. Danielle Wade’s performance of Cady is commendable too as she does a great job of portraying Cady’s complicated character transformation. 

The character I was most excited to see was the iconic Regina George, especially since the actress playing her is new to the National Tour.

However, I must admit that I felt let down by Nadia Hassan’s performance, as she lacks the assertiveness and stage presence that the role demands. Regina’s songs in Mean Girls are some of the most vocally challenging in the show, and although Hassan nailed the high notes, a lot of her singing was shaky and uneven.

As for the other two Plastics, I thoroughly enjoyed their performances. Megan Masako Haley plays a fantastically fragile Gretchen Wieners and Jonalyn Saxer does an exquisite job of portraying the dumb but lovable Karen Smith. The ensemble members are full of vitality and animation, delivering complex choreography and strong vocals. Many have solo moments throughout the show which they execute with memorable enthusiasm. 

The stage is decorated with an innovative set of screens sporting projections, paired with physical set pieces such as platforms, panels and stairs to create the various settings needed for the show. The cast exhibits a creative use of props,  often using items such as pencils and lunch trays to drum along to the music, adding an extra layer of entertainment.

However, there are certain moments where too many props are combined with extremely busy choreography, overwhelming the audience. The costuming is mediocre, but this doesn’t hinder the performance in any significant way. The ASU Gammage sound system, on the other hand, makes it difficult to understand much of what the characters are singing. The orchestra is outstanding, but the music often overpowers the actors. 

Overall, the Mean Girls National Tour is a combination of chaos and amusement, boasting several outstanding actors and an energized ensemble. However, its many tacky elements and mediocre musical score deprive it of a top spot amongst theatrical masterpieces.