Tina Fey's 'Mean Girls' Musical Sashays Through Washington, D.C., en Route to Broadway

Mean Girls - Stage Production 1- Publicity -H 2017
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

The hotly anticipated production, based on the 2004 film, drew fans from as far as Hawaii, many in costume, and saw ticket prices near $700 in the final week of its run.

Mean Girls has come full circle. Inspired by the book Queen Bees and Wannabes by former Washington, D.C., schoolteacher Rosalind Wiseman, Tina Fey first turned the darkly manipulative social orchestrations of teen girls into an adored film with a multigenerational following in 2004. Now Fey’s magical formula of sharp wit plus clear-eyed truth-telling will hit Broadway with a musical of the same name, opening April 8 after a tryout run in the same city where the story got its start.

Gathering steam among the savvy D.C. theater-going audience, Mean Girls premiered Oct. 31 at the National Theatre to sold-out houses for a five-week run that closed Dec. 3. Fueled by Fey's marquee name, a source movie with wide brand recognition and a cult fan base, the theater crowds were the buzziest Pennsylvania Avenue has seen since Trump Hotel protestors grew weary. Ticket prices skyrocketed on secondary markets, some listing close to $700.

The D.C. fan response likely provides a preview of things to come on Broadway: Devotees of the film showed up in trademark costumes (like a trio of male and female attendees in sexy Santa skirts) and hashtag-worthy tees, proclaiming “You Can’t Sit with Us,” or “You Go, Glen Coco!” One fan flew in from Hawaii with her own Burn Book — presumably for the cast to sign.

Fey is once again the genius behind the writing, and longtime pal Lorne Michaels retains his producer credit. Fey’s husband and frequent collaborator, Jeff Richmond, wrote the score, which has had a mixed reception among early audiences and critics. Rounding out the creative team are lyricist Nell Benjamin (Legally Blonde: The Musical) and director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw, whose credits include The Book of Mormon and Aladdin — so expect high-impact, tightly orchestrated, full-cast dance numbers.

The musical stays true to the movie, with updated themes to keep things fresh. The cafeteria crowds would look familiar at any smartphone-era high school, and the dictum to wear pink on Wednesdays still plays. Social media, unheard of in 2004 when the movie debuted, plays a big role in the 2017 production.

The producers, however, mostly kept national news outlets at arm’s length and a tight rein on Mean Girls’ host venue. Word is that no press tickets were given nor reviews solicited — though a handful of outlets, including The Washington Post and Variety, did publish reviews, as is standard for out-of-town tryouts.

Washington has been the warm-up city for several recent shows that later landed on Broadway, most notably Dear Evan Hansen, whose star (and recent Grammy nominee), Ben Platt, found his way back to D.C. in Mean Girls’ final week to support the cast and gamely pose for selfies at the lobby bar during intermission. Iain Armitage (Big Little Lies, Young Sheldon) was also spotted mugging with the cast after the show.

Fey herself maintained a low profile in D.C., slipping quietly in and out of downtown salons and restaurants, but she was gamely handing out cheese fries in front of the August Wilson Theatre in NYC the day tickets went on sale for the Broadway run: Oct. 3, of course (aka Mean Girls Day).