“Mean Girls” – ASU Gammage

Theater Review – November 3, 2021


Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

Aren’t you sick of teenage angst?  We all went through it but it seems to find its way into lots of contemporary theater and it now invades the musical theater badly in “Mean Girls” based on the popular film.  Many earlier musicals handled this theme better and avoided the now tired cliches with shows like “West Side Story” and “Grease” coming to mind.

Not only is “Mean Girls” sadly unoriginal about teeny boppers but the show looks cheap and tacky with awkwardly angled screens on which are projected ridiculously silly “sets.”  Oh, the show never stops as tired choreography plays out featuring a huge cast of youngish looking chorines playing lead roles without the necessary sparkle that would help sell this lame-witted bauble.  In fairness, a capacity opening night crowd of many young theatergoers seemed to love every hackneyed line and timeworn bit of business but does this cheering crowd have other richer musicals with which to compare “Mean Girls”?

The story is trite.  Two Chicago high schoolers, one newly arrived from Kenya and the other a bitchy school icon, face off around the typical antics of this age group.  The middling songs don’t add any perspective to the superficial characters nor do any of the non-existent production values assist.  Director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw who can usually be counted on to provide a bit of creative flair meanders among tiresome repeats of oft-repeated routines.

The competent cast brings boundless enthusiasm and energy to the show’s useless routines but the very loud ASU Gammage and “Mean Girls” sound system allows almost no dialogue to be understood.  Fortunately, the lame story is so bland that missing lyrics doesn’t really matter.  No cast members from this rag-tag ensemble stand out.

It would be nice if ASU Gammage could start its performances on time.  Instead, “Mean Girls” opening night curtain rose almost 15 minutes late.  ASU Gammage has perpetuated late curtains for many seasons so audiences now know they don’t have to arrive on time.  Late audiences clomp over seated patrons and step on feet as they rudely head to their seats well after performances have finally begin. This trend doesn’t happen at other local theaters nor on Broadway so why must on-time ASU Gammage theatergoers tolerate late audiences?

Finally, paying high Broadway prices to see a mediocre musical like “Mean Girls” says something significant about how shallow many Broadway musicals are today.  “Mean Girls” plays through November 7.  Tickets may be obtained by calling the ASU Gammage/Ticketmaster box office online at www.ticketmaster.com.

Grade: C-