It’s been 14 years since “Mean Girls” upped the standards for teen comedies everywhere and introduced Lindsay Lohan as the lynchpin of the genre. Nearly a decade and a half later, the film remains as relevant as ever. Watching it was likely the central activity of your last sleepover, one of your friends probably made a cheeky reference on Oct. 3 and you still can’t wear pink on a Wednesday without snickering to yourself.
The Broadway cast album for “Mean Girls” is exactly what you’d expect it to be — that is, it’s hilarious, upbeat and modern, but doesn’t add much to the landscape of contemporary Broadway. If you were looking for the next “Defying Gravity” to add to the Broadway bible of iconic solos, you won’t find it here, nor will you find the type of transformative musicality we saw with shows such as “Hamilton.”
In fact, most of its musical elements — dramatic buildups, female belting and the electric guitar-laced overture — are borrowed from hits such as “Heathers: The Musical,” “Wicked,” “The Book of Mormon” and “Legally Blonde: The Musical.” It’s worth noting that lead actors Barrett Wilbert Weed, Kate Rockwell and Grey Henson featured in “Heathers,” “Legally Blonde” and “The Book of Mormon,” respectively.
There are a smattering of deviations from today’s popular musical formula, with songs such as “Whose House Is This?” and “Sexy” venturing into more melodically unfamiliar areas and experimenting with rap more than we’d expect from a standard rock musical soundtrack, albeit while still playing it pretty safe. The cheeky raps, after a few verses, are quickly replaced with the “Legally Blonde”-inspired female Greek chorus before anything gets too edgy.
Composer Jeff Richmond and lyricist Nell Benjamin accomplish something we never knew how badly we wanted. Our favorite supporting characters — Karen, Gretchen, Janis and Damian — are given major upgrades, with delightful solos and stronger emotional grounding allowing each a well-deserved moment in the spotlight.
Kate Rockwell’s Karen Smith is phenomenally stupid. Her belting of the anthemic “Sexy” is one of the album’s most memorable tracks. Rockwell must be an absolute genius to sound so stupid, delivering dull-witted lyrics with razor sharp wit. In terms of big moments, it’s no longer “none for Gretchen Wieners (Ashley Park), bye.” Park’s ballad “What’s Wrong With Me?” provides a rare moment of emotional gravitas, one her character often loses in the thicket of Regina-worshipping and fan-favorite lines.
Meanwhile, whoever decided to give Grey Henson’s Damian Hubbard and Barrett Wilbert Weed’s Janis Sarkisian this much stage time deserves their own Tony award. The duo takes on a new function as narrators and chief advice-givers. Wilbert Weed, in particular, shines with her character’s newfound prominence, which culminates in the triumphant number “I’d Rather Be Me.”
But while we love these characters, we’d be remiss if we didn’t crown Taylor Louderman’s Regina George as the musical’s standout. Louderman bounces effortlessly between a seductive, villainous coo and a diabolical belt as she personally victimizes anyone who listens to “Meet the Plastics” or “World Burn.”
“This whole school / humps my leg like a chihuahua,” she sings in her introductory verses. We’re laughing, but we’re terrified. She’s everything Regina is meant to be, Rachel McAdams be damned.
Considering all it accomplishes for characters such as Regina, the “Mean Girls” cast album should be applauded, both for maintaining the movie’s original integrity and for creating more space to host our favorites. While it’s unfortunate that the music underlying these achievements couldn’t have been something more groundbreaking, we can’t deny that it’s still fetch.
Nevertheless, the Broadway adaptation of “Mean Girls” still leaves one important question unanswered. If Glen Coco got four candy canes, how is it possible that he’s not the current ruler of the school? It must be that his hair doesn’t look sexy pushed back, or that the musical didn’t afford him an anthem of his own — its greatest crime.
Shannon O’Hara covers theater. Contact her at [email protected].