The touring production of ‘Mean Girls’ is required viewing for teenagers and parents


Ahhhhhhh-high school...that magical time of our lives when we have to deal with raging hormones, cliques, overloaded back packs, crammed schedules, college prep, disinterested teachers and grades. Add to this the modern advent of social media where everyone’s business is now broadcast seconds after anything happens...complete with video. Depending on your viewpoint “it was the best of times, the worst of times.”

One thing that most of our high school experiences did not have was snazzy back ground music complete with dancing and singing. Fortunately, or perhaps not, we can vicariously relive the entire high school experience through the magic of theater. KeyBank Broadway Series presents the touring production of the Tina Fey’s (book), Jeff Richmond’s (music) and Nell Benjamin’s (lyrics) Broadway hit Mean Girls on the Connor Palace stage at Playhouse Square. The show is aptly directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw.

Sixteen year old Cady Heron (Danielle Wade) arrives at North Coast High School after being raised and home schooled in Kenya, Africa. This effervescent girl soon finds that her new classmates do not take kindly to new students who are different from them. Janis Sarkisian (Mary Kate Morrissey) and Damian Hubbard (Eric Huffman) take pity on the girl and try to find a clique that she will fit into. Along with the jocks, math geeks, goths and theater weirds she comes across “the plastics” who are the reining queens of the school.

Regina George (Mariah Rose Faith) the Queen Bee, Gretchen Wieners (Megan Masako Haley) her hyper active eager to please second in command and Karen Smith (Jonalyn Saxer) the stereotypical dumb blond hanger on for some reason take the newbie to heart and invite Cady to sit with them during lunch period on a provisional basis. When Damian and Janis are informed of the new alliance they encourage Cady to accept and spy for them telling all that is said and goes on within the clique.

In AP Calculus class Cady meets teenage Adonis Aaron Samuels and falls head over heals for him not knowing that he is Regina’s former boy friend of the past summer. Cady is invited by Kevin Gnapoor (Kabir Bery) to join the Mathletes (the school’s math competition squad) because of her exceptional math skills. Regina steps in to kibosh the idea telling Cady that it is social suicide. Cady even goes as far as deliberately getting low grades so that she will appear more vulnerable to Aaron.

After a shoe buying expedition to the local mall the four girls end up at Regina’s house where they meet Regina’s “cool mom.” Cady is shown “the burn book” where the girls have pasted photos of students and teachers and written mean things about them. It is here the Cady finds that Regina and Janis use to be friends but fell apart when Regina suspected that Janis was gay.

Cady realizes how mean Regina is after a Halloween party that was supposed to be sexy but Cady arrived as scary because of Regina told her so. Regina also steals back Aaron and Cady seeks revenge by giving Regina Kalteen Bars telling Regina they are for weight loss when they are actually designed to put on weight. The result ends up with Regina showing up at school in sweat pants (the only thing that still fits) and she is kicked out of the plastic girls group but Regina has revenge plans of her own.

Being that this is a show about youth it needs to be a super high energy production and this cast definitely delivers on all counts. Eric Huffman as Damian steals the show every time he gets on stage with his delightful and hilarious antics. His partner in crime, Mary Kate Morrissey as Janis Sarkisian is his equal trading barbs throughout the show. Mariah Rose Faith as Regina kills as the Queen Bee who plays the utter disdain perfectly. Her entrance in the fat butt outfit brings down the house.

Megan Masako Haley as Gretchen is like a moth on speed as she flits and hovers around the group of narcissistic girls. Jonalyn as Karen perfectly captures the dumb blond role but in a sympathetic way. The hardest working two actors of the show are Will Branner as Mr. Heron/Coach Carr/Mathletes Moderator and Gaelen Gilliland as Mrs. Heron/Ms. Norbury/Mrs. George who does some fine singing as the calculus teacher.

Special mention must be made of the video projections designed by Finn Ross and Adam Young which changed the sets in the wink of an eye.

If high school had been this much fun many of us would never have left. This high energy show dazzles with brilliant choreography, great singing numbers and superb acting. It is a moral tale of redemption and acceptance that should be required viewing by all high school age children and their parents. See if you can spot yourself among the cast.

Mean Girls runs through December 22, 2019 in the Connor Palace Theatre at Playhouse Square. For tickets and information visit www.playhousesquare.org, call (216) 241-6000 or stop by the Playhouse Square Ticket Office located in the outer lobby of the KeyBank State Theatre.

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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.