I went to see the Mean Girls musical last night and the short version was I think it will make both fans of the movie and newbies who enjoy fun high school set musicals happy. I think they did a great job of making it work well in musical form, and I'm a sucker for a falling in love in class song, and there is one. The cast is great, especially since other than the mean girls, Cady, Janice, and Damian, everyone plays multiple roles. (This is not unusual for a musical, heck "Hamilton" even did this in the main cast, but it was especially noticeable as ensemble members switched wigs to play high school girls or teachers or whatever the number called for.
So, we open with Janice and Damien giving a friendship class to incoming freshman as they tell the tale of the dangers of high school friends, telling the story of their friend Cady who was a new girl last year. We see Cady in Africa (we'll get back to that) as her parents tell her they moved so she could get socialized. She joins school, enjosy math, gets adopted by Janice and Damian as a new friend but then also attracts the interest of popular girl Regina George. Janice encourages Cady to explore this friendship, warning her that Regina is evil. Cady sees Regina as a apex predator, who protects weaker members of the pack, until she realizes her math class crush Aaron is Regina's ex, which Gretchen and Karen warn her about. Cady splits her time between being a plastic and hanging with Janice and Damian until at a Halloween party, Regina offers to talk to Aaron and instead gets back together with him, making Cady vow to take Regina down.
The show did a great job of spreading out the songs, Gretchen has a great one about being imperfect, Regina's mom sings about being her friend, and Karen even has a small number about world peace and Halloween. For fans of the movie, all the best quotes show up, not always in the same place, but it meant the opening night crowd did a lot of happy clapping. None of them felt forced, but I say this as a fan of the movie, so your mileage may vary.
I had noticed when the ads started that Gretchen had been cast with an Asian actress and I confess I experienced some happy concern. I'm thrilled to see Asian American actresses get more roles, but there was a joke at the end of the movie that was only funny because Gretchen was not Asian and I was worried they would leave it. They did not. There is still group reconfiguring at the end, but that particular part is not in the musical. Yay.
There is however a scene set in Africa, they do specify Kenya, and then use a sunset, and a tree (possibly a Baobab, I am not very tree literate), a lion and a zebra puppet. Basically it looks like the first five things white Americans know about Africa. There is later a reference to a classmate of Cady's running fast because he's Kenyan, and some references to the Maasai, Kilimanjaro (which is in Tanzania, but it does border Kenya), and riding an elephant (which people don't do on African elephants). It's unfortunate, because it puts an asterisk on my enjoyment. I loved a lot of it, but man this stuff is, well, not unexpected from the folks behind "30 Rock" and "Great News", or even the "Mean Girls" movie. Yes, one could argue that since Damian and Janice are narrating, some of the story tilts since their knowledge of Africa is not vast. But Africa and Kenya deserved better.
The show has already planned it's move to Broadway. I wish them luck. The cast was wonderful. I hope they do some tweaking before the move.