Triangle Arts and Entertainment – News and Reviews Theatre Dance Music Arts

Tina Fey’s Mean Girls at DPAC Is a Fast-Paced, Rollicking Ride, Filled with Teen Angst

Mean Girls at DPAC stars (from left) Danielle Wade as Cady Heron, Megan Masako Haley as Gretchen Wieners, Mariah Rose Faith as Regina George, and Jonalyn Saxer as Karen Smith (photo © by Joan Marcus)

You’ll need to move fast to see Mean Girls at the Durham Performing Arts Center, because the First National Tour of this show will only be in town through Sunday, Feb. 16th. It is absolutely worth the effort.

This show opened on Broadway on April 8, 2018, and garnered a dozen Tony® nominations. It is based on the 2004 film, with screenplay by the brilliant Tina Fey. With music by Fey’s husband, Jeff Richmond, lyrics by Nell Benjamin, and book by Tina Fey, Mean Girls is a fast-paced, rollicking ride, filled with teen angst.

The story focuses on the female cast members, and the ongoing theme is the shoddy way that teen girls treat each another. The production follows the path of Cady Heron (played by Danielle Wade), a new student entering the junior class at North Shore High School in Ohio. Cady has been home-schooled by her scientist parents in Kenya and is completely unprepared for the jungles of current-day public schools.

The First National Tour of Mean Girls plays DPAC on Feb. 11-16 (photo © by Joan Marcus)

Among the students with whom Cady interacts are Janis Sarkisian (Raleigh, NC native English Bernhardt, subbing for Mary Kate Morrissey) and Damian Hubbard (Eric Huffman) — both from the nerd/outcast set — and Regina George (Mariah Rose Faith) — the queen bee — and her court, Gretchen Wieners and Karen Smith (Megan Masako Haley and Olivia Renteria, subbing for Jonalyn Saxer). (Regina, Gretchen, and Karen are collectively known as The Plastics.)

The ensemble cast is solid, with no noticeable weak links. This was particularly impressive, because there were multiple understudies performing in lead roles last night. One particular benefit for Triangle theatergoers was the opportunity to see Raleigh’s own English Bernhardt (a standby performer for the main three roles), perform as Janis.

Eric Huffman (center) stars as Damian Hubbard in Mean Girls at DPAC (photo © by Joan Marcus

All of the young performers are plausible as high schoolers. They are also wonderfully energetic during the many enthusiastic production numbers.

As usual for the DPAC, the orchestra, led by Rebekah Bruce Parker, is wonderful; and the sound is clear enough to hear all of the clever lyrics. I particularly enjoyed the performance of Eric Huffman as Damian. He led a tap-dance number that really got the audience going. Director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw’s musical staging worked at all times.

This show’s plot is not the deepest or most memorable that you’ll see, but it is completely entertaining from beginning to end. Scott Pask’s set employs several clever ways to roll the props — such as doors, desks, and platforms — seamlessly on the stage.

Mean Girls stars Adante Carter and Danielle Wade as Aaron and Cady (photo © by Joan Marcus)

On one hand, the back of the stage has about 60 to 70 percent of the setwork projected on its walls in an elaborate animation. It looks and works extremely well; but as a traditionalist, I am concerned that it waters down the art form of set design.

On the other hand, there was a much younger crowd at this show than at a typical DPAC performance. None of Tuesday’s opening-night audience seemed to mind the added use of technology.

In any case, if you can get any of the few remaining tickets for Mean Girls at DPAC, I expect that you will thoroughly enjoy this show.

The cast includes (from left) Megan Masako Haley as Gretchen Wieners, Mariah Rose Faith as Regina George, Jonalyn Saxer as Karen Smith, and Danielle Wade as Cady Heron (photo © by Joan Marcus)

SECOND OPINION: Feb. 4th Raleigh, NC News & Observer mini-preview by Melissa Howsam: https://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/article239917248.html;

The Durham Performing Arts Center presents MEAN GIRLS at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 12 and 13, 8 p.m. Feb. 14, 2 and 8 p.m. Feb. 15, and 1 and 7 p.m. Feb. 16 at at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.

TICKETS: $35 and up, plus taxes and fees.

BOX OFFICE:

DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), tickets@dpacnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/where-to-buy.

Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or https://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/369510/2599052.

GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.

SHOW: https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/mean-girls and https://www.facebook.com/events/940000026344674/.

VIDEO PREVIEWS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHnDBpLelNA and https://www.youtube.com/c/MeanGirlsonBroadway.

DPAC NEWS RELEASE: https://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/mean-girls-on-sale-at-dpac-on-september-19th.

DPAC‘S 2019-20 “MAGIC OF BROADWAY” SUNTRUST BROADWAY SERIES: https://www.dpacnc.com/suntrust-broadway/season/2019-2020-broadway-season.

THE TOUR: https://meangirlsonbroadway.com/tour/, https://www.ibdb.com/tour-production/mean-girls-522168, https://www.facebook.com/MeanGirlsBway/, https://www.instagram.com/meangirlsbway/, https://twitter.com/meangirlsbway, and https://www.youtube.com/c/MeanGirlsonBroadway.

TOUR CAST: https://meangirlsonbroadway.com/cast-creative/#tour.

TOUR CREATIVE TEAM: https://meangirlsonbroadway.com/cast-creative/#creative.

PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://www.instagram.com/dpacnc/, https://twitter.com/DPAC, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_Performing_Arts_Center, and https://www.youtube.com/user/DPACLive.

DIRECTIONS: http://www.dpacnc.com/plan-your-visit/directions.

PARKING: http://www.dpacnc.com/plan-your-visit/parking.

NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15th, performance. Guests with a disabilities can find more information by clicking DPAC’s accessibility page.

OTHER LINKS:

Mean Girls (2004 film): https://www.paramount.com/movies/mean-girls (official website), http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/459822/Mean-Girls/ (Turner Classic Movies page), https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0377092/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mean_Girls (Wikipedia).

Mean Girls (2017 Washington, DC and 2018 Broadway musical): https://meangirlsonbroadway.com/ (official Broadway website), https://www.mtishows.com/mean-girls (Music Theatre International/Tams-Witmark), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/mean-girls-515810 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mean_Girls_(musical) (Wikipedia).

Jeff Richmond (music): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/jeff-richmond-505020 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0962378/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Richmond (Wikipedia).

Nell Benjamin (lyrics): http://iobdb.com/CreditableEntity/11407 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/nell-benjamin-405997 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm2803507/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nell_Benjamin (Wikipedia).

Tina Fey (book): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/tina-fey-515824 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0275486/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tina_Fey (Wikipedia).

REVIEWER:

Robert O’Connell is new to the Triangle, but not to the stage. As a playwright, he has had dozens of productions and awards throughout the world. He has an MS degree in Management Systems Analysis. A lifelong educator, O’Connell has also published three novels at http://www.flashmobthenovel.com/ and two humor anthologies from his blog, https://thesmartestguyiknow.wordpress.com/. He and his wife have settled in Cary, NC. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

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Categorised in: A&E Theatre Reviews, Lead Story, Reviews