“Mean Girls” is heading toward its Broadway opening with five new songs, including a revamped anthem for Regina George in the first act.
The creative team implemented feedback they received after a run in Washington D.C. this past fall, which led to the song changes as well as tweaks to the opening number to better explain the motivations of lead character Cady Heron. Overall, the creative team has been using the 2004 film as inspiration, while working to deepen the emotional back stories of the characters.
The run in Washington functioned as a means of envisioning what the show could be, said Casey Nicholaw, director and choreographer of “Mean Girls,” while providing an opportunity to figure out what was missing.
“One of the notes people gave consistently was that they didn’t really know who Cady was and what was going on in her head and heart,” Nicholaw said. “And now it feels much clearer.”
Though the movie has been a guiding force, lyricist Nell Benjamin said they have been able to diverge from the film and deepen the storyline, sometimes using their own high school experiences as inspiration.
“You get it from having been in high school,” Benjamin said. “All of it goes in.”
The score also diverges from music associated with high school dramas. Rather than relying on popular music, composer Jeff Richmond said he wanted to create a “fresh palate” of song styles to match the different personalities depicted, which led to songs influenced by Broadway show tunes, James Bond and rock music.
“Cliques have their own personalities, and they have their own styles of music,” Richmond said.
Fey and Richmond were approached about five years ago about the possibility of turning “Mean Girls” into a musical. Fey, who describes herself as a “theater nerd from way back,” felt that the emotional stakes of the high school drama “were enough for people to sing about,” but first she had to get Paramount Pictures to sign off, as they owned the rights.
The show begins previews on March 12 and opens April 8 at the August Wilson Theatre.
This is Fey’s first Broadway project, and thus far, she said the biggest difference between Broadway and film or television has been the amount of time it takes to put together a show.
But Fey said she has enjoyed the chance to return to her work and delve further into that world.
“What’s been nice about the musical form is that you can dig deeper emotionally with these characters,” Fey said.