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Mean Girls at Savoy Theatre | Review

My name is Regina George and I am a massive deal” – sung with sonorous feminine menace – still echoes inside my head 48 hours after I rushed to a performance of the long-awaited Mean Girls, the musical, West End debut. Full of cold and at the end of an exhausting 12-hour workday, I simply couldn’t miss this show – and I’m glad I didn’t.

Charlie Burn (Cady), Elèna Gyasi (Gretchen), Georgina Castle (Regina) and Grace Mouat (Karen) in Mean Girls. Photo credit Brinkhoff-Moegenburg
Charlie Burn (Cady), Elèna Gyasi (Gretchen), Georgina Castle (Regina) and Grace Mouat (Karen) in Mean Girls. Photo credit Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

Of course, Mean Girls is iconic and familiar – essentially a feminist re-telling of American high school clique trauma; like Grease but with a more satisfying and less misogynistic ending. Whether you know the film by heart or not, the voice of Tina Fey still comes through loud and clear in its self-deprecating (but not self-annihilating) centrality of the smart girl finding her right to be authentic. Indeed, perhaps it was my fragile state at the end of a long day, but despite it being more than 30 years since I’d graduated from an American high school not entirely unlike North Shore High, I found myself vaguely triggered by the familiarity and salience of its themes. Magically, as Fey does here (and as Sarah Silverman did in her musical, The Bedwetter), we are taken on a journey with enough real jeopardy that we’re rapt, but with enough predictability that we don’t meltdown in relived teenage anxiety (or am I oversharing?).

This musical is not transformative of the genre like, say Hamilton or even Operation Mincemeat, but it is satisfying in its spectacle and humour – with a classically old-fashioned tale of redemption at the end (trust me: not a spoiler). And, like the mark of any good musical, there is something to hum on the way home; even if I don’t foresee myself repeatedly listening to the cast recording as an album – yet.

With splendid production values via Finn Ross and Adam Young’s video design along with the costumes you’d expect (from Katrina Lindsay) under the direction and choreography of Casey Nicholaw, there is no call for subtlety in the acting of its leads.  Jeff Richmond and Nell Benjamin’s music takes care of most of the emotion and mood just fine. Nonetheless Charlie Burn (as recent previously home-schooled emigree from Kenya: Cady Heron) and Georgina Castle (as the famous ‘apex predator’: Regina George) have plenty of comic chops to do justice to Tina Fey’s book. Bolstered by her fellow ‘Plastics’, Gretchen (Elena Gyasi) and Karen (Grace Mouat) – who are played broadly like the secondary characters in a Shakespeare comedy — the core group gel for the deliberately cringe-making central plot of revenge gone wrong. It is the kind-hearted and misunderstood outcasts of Janis (Elena Skye) and Damian (Tom Xander) who give ballast to the story with able and winning performances. In fact, all the secondary characters – as classic Tina Fey pastiches with just enough reality laced into the farce – are memorable and fun. The Mathletes (of “social suicide”) and the rest of the ensemble give not just mirth but add to the show’s sense of richness with their skilled advancement of the choreography and another layer of the North Shore world. And Daniel Bravo as Aaron Samuels is perfectly cast as the (unattainably?) cute boy of high school dreams. Likewise, the vocal performances are excellent across the board.

Mean Girls is decidedly kitsch and not wildly profound. It has a few knowing punches about the nerds selling their Adderall and the persistence of realistic sophomoric slut-shaming in vivid (ish) language that places its gaze as one of adults looking backwards rather than a more ‘let’s work through our feelings now’ vibe of Inside Out 2. Nonetheless, for anyone who went to high school and is glad it’s over, there’s something in this show for you.

4 stars

Review by Mary Beer

CAST
Charlie Burn – Cady Heron
Georgina Castle – Regina George
Elèna Gyasi – Gretchen Wieners
Grace Mouat – Karen Smith
Elena Skye- Janis Sarkisian
Tom Xander – Damian Hubbard
Daniel Bravo – Aaron Samuels
Lucca Chadwick-Patel – Kevin Ganatra
Ako Mitchell – Mr Duvall
Zoë Rainey – Ms Norbury / Mrs George / Ms Heron

Ensemble and Swings – Tia Antoine-Charles, Georgia Arron, Liam Buckland. Shonah Buwu, Baylie Carson, Freddie Clements, Siobhan Diffin, Clíona Flynn, Fergie Fraser, Angus Good, Jenny Huxley-Golden, Holly Liburd, Corey Mitchell, Mervin Noronha, Aharon Rayner, Trézel Sergeant, Josh Singleton, Annie Southall, Lillia Squires, Tommy Wade-Smith, Holly Willock

CREATIVE TEAM
Book by Tina Fey
Music by Jeff Richmond
Lyrics by Nell Benjamin
Directed and Choreographed by Casey Nicholaw
Scenic Design by Scott Pask
Costume Design by Katrina Lindsay
Lighting Design by Kenneth Posner
Sound Design by Brian Ronan
Video Design by Finn Ross and Adam Young
Hair Design by Josh Marquette
Music Supervision by Mary-Mitchell Campbell
Orchestrations by John Clancy
Dance & Incidental Music Arrangements by Glen Kelly and Mary-Mitchell Campbell
Vocal Arrangements by Mary-Mitchell Campbell and Jeff Richmond
Music Direction by Simona Budd
Casting by Natalie Gallacher for Pippa Ailion and Natalie Gallacher Casting

Meet The Plastics – Regina, Gretchen and Karen. They rule North Shore High and will burn anyone who gets in their way. Home-schooled Cady Heron may think she knows a thing or two about survival of the fittest thanks to her zoologist mom, but high school is a whole new level of savage. When Cady devises a plan to end Regina’s reign, she learns the hard way that you can’t cross a queen bee without getting stung.

Expect iconic characters, razor-sharp wit, and killer songs. Grab your friends and your cool mom, this is going to be fetch – and YES London, we’re making it happen!

If you want to sit with us, book your tickets and don’t forget… on Wednesdays, we wear pink.

Lorne Michaels, Sonia Friedman Productions and David Ian for Crossroads Live present
MEAN GIRLS
Savoy Theatre

Author

  • Mary Beer

    Mary graduated with a cum laude degree in Theatre from Columbia University’s Barnard College in New York City. In addition to directing and stage managing several productions off-Broadway, Mary was awarded the Helen Prince Memorial Prize in Dramatic Composition for her play Subway Fare whilst in New York. Relocating to London, Mary has worked in the creative sector, mostly in television broadcast and production, since 1998. Her creative and strategic abilities in TV promotion, marketing and design have been recognised with over 20 industry awards including several Global Promax Golds. She is a founder member of multiple creative industry and arts organisations and has frequently served as an advisor to the Edinburgh International TV Festival.

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