When it comes to mean girls, the limit does not exist. After debuting as a blockbuster movie in 2004, the story of plastics and the North Shore High School students they terrorize made the jump to Broadway in 2018 and a national tour in 2019. Now, while the musical is about to return to the screen as a musical, mean girls reaches the next frontier: real schools.
It’s true: theater licensor, Music Theater International, added mean girls to its Broadway Junior catalog, which adapts Broadway shows like Shrek, Newsand Matilda for young performers. Adapted from the Broadway feature with a book by Tina Fey (adapting her own screenplay) and songs by Jeff Richmond and Nell Benjamin, Mean Girls JR. is designed to be performed by actors 18 and under. Running just over an hour, the show includes key author-approved edits (for young voices) and other changes to make the show fully kid-friendly.
Mean Girls JR. officially debuted at the 2023 Junior Theater Festival, held January 13-15 in Atlanta, Georgia. The weekend-long festival brought together 125 youth theater groups from 28 states (plus Washington DC, Canada and Australia) for three days of song, dance, drama and learning. The groups bring a 15-minute excerpt from a Broadway Junior title and present it to the judges who judge the submissions for a number of festival awards and lead a working session with the group. But JTF is much more than a competition. It’s a celebration of all youth theatre.
When the kids aren’t performing or taking part in workshops, they head to the gargantuan ballroom of the Cobb Galleria Convention Center for performances and interviews, including a presentation of the latest hits from Broadway Junior. Sandy Springs, Georgia’s The City Springs Theater Conservatory was on hand to present a special preview of Mean Girls JR.performing “It Roars”, “Where Do You Belong?” and “I See Stars”.
See excerpts from the preview of the CSTC Mean Girls JR. under:
But this young cast weren’t the only mean girls at this year’s festival. Just after finishing their performance, the children of the CIEC were joined on stage by mean girls Broadway alums Erika Henningsen, Gray Henson, Kate Rockwell, Kyle Selig and Krystina Alabado.
We caught up with the cast of Broadway backstage as they enjoyed the glow of something all too often rare for New York actors stuck in the daily grind: pure, unbridled enthusiasm. As we spoke, more than 5,000 young theater fans separated from us just 30 feet away and a curtain began to sing along to “It Takes Two” from Stephen Sondheim’s new Broadway revival cast recording. In the woods (another title that can be found in the Broadway Junior catalog).
“The vibe in New York right now is, ‘I don’t really know what’s going on with the theater,'” recalls Henningsen, who originated the role of Cady Herron on Broadway. “And then you walk into this room of over 5,000 kids and you just think, ‘OK.’ And it’s just the kids who could be here!If so many people are still obsessed with musical theater, so much so that they’re willing to go out for three whole days just to do it, become spectators, actors, producers. They just give me hope. I didn’t know that people at that age were still so enthusiastic about musical theatre.
“It’s a pretty powerful place,” adds Alabado, a Gretchen Wieners from Broadway who participated in the JTF as a referee for years. “I always tell my friends in New York, ‘If you want your soul revived in what we do, come to JTF.’ They’re so happy and they’re so excited and it’s been their whole year.
“It reminds you why you went into musical theater,” says Broadway original Plastic Karen Smith Rockwell. “It’s a childish art form. And for you to be good at musicals, you have to be able to tap into your inner child. Being here is the most invigorating experience that reminds you why theater matters, why it’s important to do theatre, why it’s important to watch theatre. It takes you back to that place of being a kid and feeling pure joy, pure emotion, and not having to worry about anything that happens as you get older.
According to Henson, who originated the role of Damian Hubbard, North Shore’s resident show queen, that joy was present in mean girls‘ Younger fans at the Broadway run. “The kids at the door to the stage were like, ‘I can’t wait to play this role. I’m Gretchen. I’m a Regina.’ And now they can do that,” Henson explains. “That’s what was so special for us, connecting with them on the stage door before the pandemic. And now we can fly around and watch them do it Mean Girls JR.”
But it’s not just that they love the show. According to Selig, original Broadway idol Aaron Samuels, taking this show to middle and high school kids allows kids to tap into what they’re currently going through, like peer pressure, bullying and feeling like an outcast. . “It’s really their lived experience,” says Selig. “A lot of teenage issues and complexities are dealt with on the show and that kind of sums it up. I think if they can practice that in a play and not do it in real life, so long better.
This conversation also resonated with Rockwell, who just a few weeks ago is a brand new mom (a cool mom, we’re sure). “Children have to deal with these things much earlier than when mean girls was written 20 years ago,” Rockwell recalls. “Being a teenager or a pre-teen has changed. By the time these kids are 13, they’re already dealing with what it’s like to try to deal with bullying and to fit in, and to try to be yourself in a crowd of people telling you what to do. It’s nice that you can actually look at this story at that age and get some reinforcement that it’s okay to be around. be yourself, not just go with the crowd.
And as for this upcoming musical, shall we see mean girls on-screen stage alum? We already know Renée Rapp will be reprising her Broadway performance as Queen Bee Regina George. As for the others, they hope you haven’t noticed, but one or two of them might be a week or two older than their characters are supposed to be. Yes, in 2023, it turns out that this group is not even going here.
“We should be the parents in the mall, judging the kids during ‘Apex Predator,'” Henson jokes.
“I can bring my current daughter and we can just walk around the mall,” Rockwell adds. Somebody call Hollywood because it would be…well, go get it.