I love the movie Mean Girls. For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, it tells the story of a dewy Cady who has to start going to public school because her zoologist parents ran out of animals to look at in Africa. There she makes a couple of outcast friends before she is inducted into the most popular clique of girls in the school — the Plastics, comprised of a dreadful bull goose named Regina, a disenfranchised sycophant, and one who is only marginally intelligent enough to breathe. Cady and her outcast friends hatch a cunning plan to knock the bull goose off of her perch at the pinnacle of the school’s social hierarchy, but Cady’s loyalties are tested as the toxicity of popularity seeps in through her pores and turns her into the very thing she’d sought to destroy. Tim Meadows plays the high school principal, and he is always fun to see in movies.
Mean Girls the musical debuted on Broadway in April last year, and it’s playing at the Orpheum Theatre from October 1st through 13th. Its reviews are stellar. One high-falutin New York City theater critic called it “a fast-paced fancy fun time,” which are some of the kindest words you can use to describe a live performance. You certainly couldn’t say the same about Death of a Salesman.
I was fortunate enough to speak with Mary Kate Morrissey. She’s quite accomplished already, having played Elphaba in Wicked, Sheila in Hair, and Lizzie Borden in Lizzie, the Musical. Who better to play the part of Janis Ian, the girl half of the outcast duo, in Mean Girls?
“I love my role,” said Mary Kate. “Janis gets the best wardrobe in the whole musical. As a kid who knew how to play every Evanescence bass line, it’s exactly what I wanted to wear — but I went to Catholic school. Every character in Mean Girls gets a great musical number, but Janis’ song ‘I’d Rather Be Me’ is really special. It’s the first song in a musical that passes the Bechdel test, where a woman sings a song to other women that isn’t about men. And its message, that she’d rather be genuine than change who she is, is inspiring!
“Mean Girls has an anthemic score, which nods to the kind of pop music you would hear today but with a storytelling twist. Every character has their own distinct voice. I get a more belting, rock and roll sound, while Cady’s is much more clear — her song “Stars,” which is about how small you really are, truly stands alone as an awesome song. Regina’s numbers are wild and a lot more over the top, which is perfect for her character.
“I loved playing Elphaba — it’s just so much heavy lifting, and it’s so fulfilling — but I did it for 14 months. I’m looking forward to being the schoolgirl instead of the green girl, and not getting green on everything that I own anymore. I think that Elphaba and Janis are similar, though. Each has a hidden heart of gold, and they’re both trying to defy convention.
“The lesson of Mean Girls is that everybody has their own cross to bear, and it’s easier to be nice than mean. Its message is to be true to yourself. If people didn’t care so much about what others think they should be, and just tried to live authentically, I think a lot of fighting and sadness wouldn’t be as bold and present as they are today.”
Mary Kate is looking forward to her two week long stay in Minneapolis. Being from New York City herself, it’s easy to see why she’s eager to finally get to a place with actual art, fashion, and dining for a change. And when she’s not soaking up Midwestern culture, she’ll be up there at the Orpheum playing the best Janis you’ll ever see. Go to hennepintheatretrust.org to get your tickets for the first time Mean Girls will ever play this side of the Mississippi!
By David Scheller