By Michelle Stevinson, Latin Life Denver Media
Mean Girls is a must-see, laugh out loud, high-energy musical. It is a “cautionary tale” about discovering who you are while also trying to fit in. Can you really be your authentic self while pleasing others? Written by Tina Fey, music by Jeff Richmond, lyrics by Nell Benjamin and directed by Casey Nicholaw. It is a whimsical story now playing at the Denver Center of Performing Arts through January 1, 2023.
Cady, played by English Bernhardt, moves from Africa to Illinois to get socialized in high-school as she was previously home-schooled. Quickly she learns that being the new girl is not popular and gets bullied. Outcasts Janis, (Lindsey Heather Pearce) and charmingly flaming Damien, (Eric Huffman) take Cady under their wing becoming best friends and show her around school.
“Where do you belong?”, they ask while showing Cady the different groups: the jocks, the plastics, rich kids, choir team, dance team, nerds and many more. Cady decides to join her new best friends Janis and Damien.
However Queen Bee Regina, (Lily Kaufmann) has another plan and acts really nice to Cady insisting that she join her trio clique. Known as “The Plastics” with eager-to-please Gretchen (Jasmine Rodgers) and hilariously ditsy Karen (Morgan Ashley Bryant).
Regina looks down on Janis and Damien calling them art freaks. In return, Janis refers to Regina as an apex predator having fallen victim to her insatiable appetite for toxic drama. Regina is the most popular and prettiest mean girl in school. Everyone idolizes her and even faithfully votes for her annual “queen” crown.
Meanwhile the new girl, Cady, falls head over heels for Aaron, who is Regina’s ex-boyfriend. He sits next to Cady in math class, a subject she excels at. She is good at math and dumb at love. Easily influenced by her friends, Cady acts dumb to get her crush Aaron to like her. Janis said, “it always works”, as the audience laughs. Does acting dumb really work to get your crush to like you?
As Cady wins over Aaron, Regina finds out and wins him back. If she can’t have him, no one can. Regina always gets what she wants no matter who gets hurt along the way. Cady is crushed and agrees to go along with Janis’ revenge plot to make Regina gain weight with supposedly “healthy” snack bars. In an over the top fashion, Regina’s back side grows disproportionately enormous causing the audience to laugh hysterically. Albeit fat shaming but it quickly takes a toll on her self-esteem and unnerving confidence.
As Regina’s apex predator popularity plunges, her viral sensation status quo quickly becomes a social media nightmare. Yet an ever emerging Cady takes to the spotlight becoming “fearless” and taking on the belief that “more is better”. More friends, more shoes, more clothes and more attention-seeking popularity.
Is more really better? Does being the most popular girl in school make you happy? Regina sure seems to think so, as a vengeful plot twist emerges and she blasts hate speech all over campus. As she gets heated up, chaos ignites and students unleash their rage. Cady begins to lose all her friends, her crush and her reputation. Soon she realizes that life is not about superficial things or people. Cady joins the math team becoming a bright shining star, in her own life and most importantly being her true authentic self.
As this story continues, just when you think there is a happy ending you will be left shocked and in awe hanging on the edge of your seat.
Mean Girls takes you on a journey and perhaps even takes you back to fun, awkward or painful memories of high-school. Every teenager is on a journey of self-discovery amidst all the drama and pressure to fit into the social hierarchy. Often teenagers lose sight of what is most important in life and especially their futures. We all have a story to tell, yet the most important lesson is to just be yourself, not who others want you to be. We can ALL be stars in the sky shining bright to light up our own unique paths.
Mean Girls plays the Denver Center of Performing Arts through January 1, 2023.