By Shari Goldstein Stern
When grown women are directed to transform into teenage girls with high-pitched voices spouting West Coast jargon like, “I know, right?” accentuated with the region’s distinctive inflection, connecting with a Texas audience is challenging. Both dialogue and lyrics may not be discernible for a mature crowd. Last Wednesday night’s audience at Broadway Dallas’ (BD) production of “Mean Girls” demonstrated that.
“Mean Girls” is based on a book by nine-time EMMY Award winner Tina Fey, based on her screenplay for the film, music by three-time EMMY Award winner Jeff Richmond and lyrics by two-time Tony Award nominee Nell Benjamin. Tony Award winner Casey Nicholaw directs and choreographs. Sounds solid.
The musical opened on Broadway in April 2018 at the August Wilson Theatre, following its world premiere at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C. in the fall of 2017.
At Wednesday’s performance, hardly a word of dialogue or a single lyric was clear. While patrons over 55 (or 40) had to repeatedly ask: “What did she say? Why are those kids over there laughing?” it was not a hearing issue. The actors didn’t understand proper enunciation. Their high-pitched, mumbled, garbled, quasi-delivery of their lines were inaudible to the audience.
It was apparent the more youthful members of the packed theater were enamored of the show. They were loudly demonstrative, following every laugh-line and funny business.
As it happens, this writer returned home in search of the 2004 movie, “Mean Girls” on Amazon Prime Video to learn what I had just seen. What a cute movie.
No wonder it was so popular in its day with a cult-like pink following. Fleshing out the story line was simpler with proper diction at the helm. Lyndsay Lohan’s character was crystal clear, along with her girlfriends and their arm candy. Best way to describe the lot: Adorable while despicable, but understandable.
In Wednesday’s show, with 50 shades of pink in everything from teensy, tight shorts to magenta locks, hot pink backpacks, cotton candy handbags, fuchsia sneakers, blushing cheeks, hip pink Moms with rosy lip gloss, to a Fleers Double-Bubble bedroom, borscht-tone cars, and Pepto Bismol sets, one gets a sense that the show’s pink everything contributes to its theme. Colleagues of innovative scenic designer, Scott Pask, must be green with envy about his opportunity,
“Mean Girls” takes place at an all-American, suburban Illinois high school. That’s a far cry from the education Caddy, our leading teenaged non-pink clad lady, received from her education at home in Nairobi, Africa, where her parents were researchers. She has always been home-schooled, having never attended a public school. Her parents then decide to move back to America, largely for her opportunity to socialize in school.
Much to their chagrin, this naïve, new-girl-in-town is immediately shunned by the popular chic-clique, the Plastics and their cult-like following. Once she breaks through their pink wall of acceptance, she begins losing her real friends, who loved her uniqueness before she turned “Plastic.” Lessons are learned. Caddy restores her original, quirky self and wins back her friends who count.
A sensational movie script and score don’t always translate well to the live stage, and “Mean Girls” is one of them.
“Mean Girls” will run through May 15 with evening performances and matinees at the Music Hall at Fair Park, presented by Broadway Dallas, formerly known as Dallas Summer Musicals.