How “Mean Girls The Musical” Compares To The Original Movie

“Mean Girls” is a beloved pop culture, cult classic. But the phenomenon doesn’t stop at the 2004 film – it’s a hit Broadway musical too.

By Jillian Schroeder4 min read
Screenshot 2023-12-01 at 8.45.09 AM
Paramount Pictures/Mean Girls

It may not be October 3, but Mean Girls is still taking over the internet these days. Stars Lindsay Lohan, Lacey Chabert, and Amanda Seyfried reunited on set to create a series of Walmart Black Friday ads, and they kind of broke social media. 

I have a love/hate relationship with Mean Girls. As a satire of modern high school culture, Mean Girls is ruthless in the way of the best satires. It’s one of the most quotable movies of all time and was a star-making vehicle that gave us several stellar acting careers, including Amanda Seyfried and Rachel McAdams. 

But the danger with satire is that people will take it seriously as a model for their own choices. At times, Mean Girls feels more like a celebration than an indictment of toxic female friendships. Even Tina Fey, creator of both film and musical, has noted the unintended effect the story had on her own daughter’s behavior. Does Mean Girls discourage girls from being toxic, or does it just make this behavior look cool? 

No matter where you stand on Mean Girls, this pop culture phenomenon won’t be going away anytime soon. The clique of pink-clad bullies will return to screens in 2024 with a film adaptation of Mean Girls the Musical. Now’s the time to brush up on your Mean Girls quotes and learn the musical numbers before the world’s most famous toxic friend group dances to a screen near you.

Where the Musical Fails and the Movie Succeeds 

The brainchild of SNL graduate and 30 Rock star Tina Fey, Mean Girls is partly based on Rosalind Wiseman’s book Queen Bees and Wannabes, a how-to guide for navigating high school cliques. After the film’s phenomenal success, Fey and her husband, Jeff Richmond, put together a team to begin working on a musical adaptation as early as 2013. The musical strives to be faithful to the film, following the same plot and character arcs. A few things get lost in translation, however, and they end up making a significant difference in the original story’s overall meaning.

One of the more charming elements of the film is Cady’s voiceover internal dialogue. As she pretends to be stupid to get the attention of senior Aaron Samuels, we hear her correctly solving problems and reacting to situations in her head. It’s like hearing Cady’s conscience fight back, and it’s a reminder that Cady really does know better – she’s just choosing to do what will get her what she wants. It would be difficult to achieve the same effect live on stage, but its absence takes some of the bite out of the film’s satirical truths. It’s easier to believe that the Cady of the musical had good intentions for her actions than it is in the film.

Perhaps this is why the ending of Mean Girls the Musical falls a bit flat. In the original film, Cady finally accepts that her actions have hurt others, and she takes credit for the entire Burn Book. “When you get bit by a snake, you have to suck the poison out,” Cady meditates as she starts making her amends, “That’s what I had to do. Suck all the poison out of my life.” With her final act of kindness in the film, Cady returns to her sweetness at the beginning of the film. Her kindness of spirit is more powerful than the toxicity of her classmates, as it really always was.

The musical’s final number, “Stars,” really gets the last scene of the film wrong. A ballad of female solidarity and inclusion, Cady sings to classmates that “You are so real / You are so rare / I see you there / I see stars.” It’s not about taking responsibility for your actions – Cady just needed to recognize that everyone was perfect in their own way. It’s a hollow victory and takes all the meaning out of the story.

The Best Tracks from Mean Girls the Musical

Mean Girls the Musical knows its audience: people who loved the Lohan film and who spend their free time belting show tunes on the commute home. I had no idea what to expect from watching this show live, and I still struggle to put it into words. Every person in the audience was wearing pink (and it wasn’t even Wednesday), and at several points, it was more a singalong than a live production.

Below are what I consider to be the seven best musical moments of the Broadway version.

1. “What’s Wrong with Me?”

Ashley Parks’ star-making solo is the musical’s finest number. Gretchen Wieners, whose friendship with Regina is on the rocks, sings of her reliance on Regina’s opinion: “Mama called me beautiful / Don’t believe her anymore / Now I’m listening to you / What do I do that for / Please don’t ignore me.” Gretchen’s ballad gets to the heart of what we find so fascinating about Mean Girls. Why do little girls start listening to the most toxic voice in the room? The number gives Gretchen a human depth that the film never quite manages, and I’d be willing to bet that it paved the road for Parks’s role in the Netflix show Emily in Paris.

2. “Apex Predator”

In this number, Janice and Cady discuss Regina’s social power. Janice points out the danger of their school’s “Apex Predator,” while Cady reflects on the power she herself has acquired by being a part of Regina’s pack. “She’s the queen of beasts / She can smell your fear / In this biosphere / She’s the Apex Predator,” they sing together – but for Cady, it’s tinged with an ever-growing admiration. It’s the first indication that Cady herself is slowly turning plastic. With clever lyrics that use the animal kingdom to interpret high school cliques, it’s a blast to sing out loud in the car. There aren’t enough female duets in the world of Broadway musicals, and “Apex Predator” really delivers. 

3. “Meet the Plastics”

This track channels the best of the rock musicals, like Hair or Rock of Ages. This song is all about the Plastics, and it perfectly captures the iconic introduction to the group in the film. Each girl sings her own verse, and each is crafted to fit her personality. Regina is a dominant, vocal powerhouse. Gretchen sings with anxious speed, barely pausing to breathe. Karen sings slow and sweet, building to a musically unfinished line that perfectly expresses her stupidity. When the three join together at the end of the number, it’s the modern chorus line you never knew you needed to hear.

4. “More Is Always Better”

Cady finally gets her moment with Aaron, and she totally bombs. The song illustrates the irony of the situation – Cady’s real self is the girl Aaron was always interested in, and her imitation of Regina sours the moment. It’s the only time in the musical where a character refuses to be treated like an animal or, as Cady calls Aaron, “property.” And that moment when Aaron sings, “I would prefer the girl you were / Not who you’re trying to be” – swoon.

5. “Fearless”

No, this isn’t a reference to Taylor Swift, and I’m still a bit mad about it. But it’s a song that makes you want to send in that job application you’ve been avoiding, so I can forgive them. Cady rejoices with Gretchen over the end of Regina’s high school reign: “I thought you would cave / But you stood up to her / You were strong, you were brave / No, you know what you were? / You were fetch / So fetch!” And just to make it even better, it ends with a reprise of Regina’s song “Til Someone Gets Hurt.” Transition numbers are hard to write, but “Fearless” does the trick.

6. “Stupid with Love”

Instantly crushing on senior classmate Aaron, Cady reflects on her previous failed (and humorous) attempts at love. Math has been her place of solace because math always makes sense: “By 13, I gave up trying / I decided I would be a mathematician / 'cause math is real.” The piece requires a significant balancing act on stage, since it’s sung entirely from a school desk, as Cady’s internal dialogue in the middle of a class. It’s a fun number, full of the sparkle of first love.

7. “World Burn”

This one was pretty mind-blowing to watch live – the vocal requirements to sing it are insane. Word-playing on the “burns” contained in “The Burn Book,” this number follows Regina as she adds her own name to the Book, only to print copies of every page and spread them around the school. It’s a revenge ballad, pure and simple. But be warned: If you don’t want to read the specifics of the Burn Book, skip this one.

Closing Thoughts

If you love Mean Girls and you love Broadway show tunes, then you’re going to enjoy Mean Girls the Musical. Does the musical capture the subtlety of Fey’s original script? No. While the musical has plenty of fun, rock numbers, it does as much to encourage meanness in girls as anything else. 

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